Aliya-by-Aliya Parshat Acharei-K’doshim 5759

Numbers in [brackets] are the mitzva-count according to the Sefer HaChinuch. Other counts vary.

KOHEN First Aliya – 17+7 = 24 p’sukim (16:1-24)

The first part of the sedra deals with the Yom Kippur service in the Beit HaMikdash – SEDER HaAVODA. An emotional element is introduced when the Torah tells us that G-d gave these commands “after the deaths of Aharon’s two sons”. We cannot help but be struck by the combination of the Kohen Gadol performing the loftiestof spiritual tasks with the background of personal grief. These feelings are especially powerful as we listen to this reading on Yom Kippur.

Before the Service is described, the kohanim in are warned not to enter the Beit HaMikdash other than when they have tasks to perform [184].

G’MATRIYA – R. Auerbach z”l found a numeric link between the deaths of Aharon’s sons and Yom Kippur.

B’KORVATAM LIFNEI HASHEM VAYAMUTU = 2+100+200+2+400+40 (744) + 30+80+50+10 (170) + 26 + 6+10+40+400 +6 (462) = 1402.

The Yom Kippur bracha ends with M’KADESH YISRAEL V’YOM HAKIPURIM = 40+100+4 +300 (444) + 10+300+200+1+30 (541) + 6+10 +6+40 (62) + 5+20+80+200+10 +40 (355) = 1402.

The entire Yom Kippur service, with all of its details, constitutes one mitzva [185]. Aharon is to take a bull as a sin- offering and a ram as a burnt-offering. He is to wear his special garments (the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur alternates between his full set of eight garments and a special set of four pure white garmentswhich he wore when he entered the Holy of Holies). The Kohen Gadol washes his hands and feet ten times throughout the day and immerses in a mikve five times. “From the People” Aharon takes two goats for sin-offerings and a ram as an Olah. The bull is an atonement for Aharon and the kohanim. Lots were cast to determinewhich of the two (identical) goats was to be offered as a korban and which was sent out alive into the wilderness as the scapegoat.

[SDT] There are two very different styles of sin – rejecting what G-d says and distancing oneself from the Divine, and violating His commands in an attempt to get closer to Him. Most sin is of the former type; that of Nadav and Avihu was of the latter kind. Corresponding to these two opposite motivations for sin, we havetwo offerings – one that was offered inside the Beit HaMikdash, its blood actually being brought into the Kodshei Kodoshim, and the other being sent completely away from the Beit HaMikdash. Both goats were identical.

The Kohen Gadol performs all of the duties of the Day, with minimal assistance from other kohanim. The Holy of Holies filled with smoke from the incense offering when the Kohen Gadol entered. The service of Yom Kippur is complex; it is detailed in the repetition of the Musaf Amida of Yom Kippur as well as in the Torah reading.

This portion continues to describe the complex service of Yom Kippur. Among the many tasks of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur, is VIDUI on behalf of all the people of Israel. His confession of sin must be accompanied by that of each Jew, if complete atonement is to be achieved. The Rambam says that there is “communal forgiveness”for “minor” offenses, but major sins require that the individual do his own T’shuva. Even when there is “communal forgiveness”, an individual still has to be part of the community in order to benefit from it. He who distances himself from the community does not receive the benefits of communal prayer, repentance, and atonement.(Oversimplified, but thepoint is that the individual has to do his own T’shuva, there is no “hocus pocus” you’re forgiven because of what others did. But being part of the Jewish community enhances the process.)

LEVI – Second Aliya – 10+7 = 17 p’sukim – (16:25-17:7)

The Torah continues detailing the Yom Kippur service. It concludes with a “reiteration” of the rules of Yom Kippur for each of us (we count the mitzvot of Yom Kippur for us from Parshat Emor), and the statement that the Day of Yom Kippur helps bring atonement to the People. It is thus the Day itself, the Temple service,communal prayer, AND our individual prayer, our fasting, our T’shuva and confession that combine to attain true forgiveness for ourselves and all of Israel.

It is forbidden to slaughter an animal that is to be offered as a korban, outside the area of the Beit HaMikdash [186].


It is similarly forbidden to slaughter an animal for personal use within the precincts of the Temple. A korban slaughtered outside is invalid and must be burned, “personal” meat inside is likewise forbidden. Both are wasteful, hence sinful, acts which can be construed as a form of “bloodshed”.

Third Aliya -14+16=30 p’sukim – (17:8-18:21)

The Torah reiterates the prohibition of slaughtering korbanot “outside” and states emphatically that it is forbidden to eat blood. Blood symbolizes life.

When one slaughters a bird or a “wild” animal (e.g. deer – as opposed to the domesticated farm animal for which this mitzva does not apply), he is required to cover the first amount of blood with “dust” (sand, sawdust, etc.) [187]. The prohibitions relating to blood are repeated and stressed. Blood of korbanot goes on theAltar as an atonement; blood of animals that are not eligible for korbanot must be covered.


Animals (mammals, that is) fall into one of two catergories: B’HEIMA and CHAYA. All kosher B’HEIMOT – cow, goat, and sheep – are “fit for the Altar”. They are not included in the mitzva of KISUI DAM, covering the blood; their blood is considered atoning, even when the animal is slaughtered for CHULIN (non-sacred) purposes.No CHAYA is fit for the Altar. Among the birds, only two types – the TOR and the BNEI YONA (dove and turtledove) – are ever used as korbanot. All other birds cannot be korbanot. Therefore, the rule for birds follows the majority, and covering the blood applies to birds and CHAYOT.

Chapter 18 contains the many forbidden sexual relationships. First there is a general warning against copying the negative practices of Egypt (from whence we have recently come) and those of the peoples of Canaan (to where we are shortly to go). We have only to follow the laws and statutes of G-d and live by them.

[SDT] From the term V’CHAI BAHEM, “and live by them”, we are taught two important concepts. Judaism is not just a religion; it is a way of life. Furthermore, this verse is (one of) the source(s) of the concept that many mitzvot (but not all!) are pushed aside if there is a life-threatening situation. Mitzvot are to LIVEby, not die by.

It is prohibited to be “intimate” with any of the forbidden relations [188], as follows: Homosexual acts between father and son are (doubly) forbidden [189]; “relations” between mother and son are forbidden [190]; so too is one’s father’s wife forbidden to him [191], even after divorce or the death of the father; brotherand sister (from either parent or both) are forbidden to each other [192]. There is an additional prohibition for a father’s daughter not of one’s own mother [196]. A son’s daughter [193] and a daughter’s daughter [194] are expressly forbidden; one’s own daughter is a prohibition [195] derived by the logical argument ofKAL VaCHOMER. It is significant that this mitzva is derived logically rather than being written out. An aunt from the father’s side [197] or the mother’s side [198] is forbidden. Homosexual acts between nephew and father’s brother are doubly forbidden [199]. Relations with an uncle’s wife [200] or daughter-in-law [201]are prohibited. One’s brother’s wife is forbidden [202] except when overridden by the mitzva of Yibum.


A man can have a sister-in-law in three different ways. (1) His wife’s sister is forbidden to him during his wife’s lifetime. If his wife dies, he may marry her sister. If they divorce and his ex-wife is still alive, her sister is forbidden. (2) His brother’s wife is forbidden to him if they divorced, or even if the brotherdied and had children from the marriage. If the brother died without offspring, then brother-in-law and sister-in-law are provisionally linked to each other. Either they marry according to the rules of YIBUM, or their “link” is to be severed by the divorce-like procedure known as CHALITZA. There is a longterm rabbinicban (Ashkenazim) against Yibum; only the alternate Chaliltza is allowed (required). But until Chalitza, the woman is forbidden to all men. (3) A wife’s brother’s wife would be permitted to him if she becomes unattached by death or divorce.

Relations with a woman and her daughter (or mother – same thing) [203] or her granddaughter from a son [204] or daughter [205] are forbidden. (The second relationship constitutes the violation.) Relations with one’s wife’s sister during the wife’s lifetime are forbidden [206] (see CLARIFICATION above). A man may not sleepwith a woman when she is a NIDA [207]; relations with another man’s wife are forbidden.

Putting one’s child through the rites of Molech is forbidden [208]; it is a desecration of G-d’s Name.

Fourth Aliya – 9+14=23 p’sukim – (18:22-19:14)

This is the bridge Aliya, the one that combines the two sedras. R’vi’i is always used for this purpose. Acharei-K’doshim is the only one of the seven pairs of combined readings which break up an even two Aliyot per Aliya.

Homosexual acts are forbidden [209]. Sexual conduct with animals is forbidden for men and women [210,211].

We must not defile ourselves by doing any of the above. These abominable practices defile the Land and result in expulsion therefrom. We must scrupulously shun these practices.


In light of the fact that this “command” immediately follows the forbidden sexual relations, we can see that the answer lies in living a moral life. In light of the exceptionally large number of mitzvot in the sedra of the command to be holy, one can fairly assume that the answer also involves the observance of mitzvot.This means more than “just going through the motions”. It means a Torah way of life, mitzvot for the right motives and with the right enthusiasm. There are many ways of looking at “Be Holy”. Each individual mitzva of the Torah commands us to do or forbids us to do something specific. K’doshim says that for each mitzvawe perform, for each prohibition we abstain from, there should be included a spiritual aspiration to holiness.

One must revere his parents [212], yet keep the Shabbat, meaning that if one’s parents tell him to violate the Shabbat (or any other mitzva – Torah ordained or rabbinic), he may not listen to them. Parents and their children are all commanded by G-d to keep the Shabbat.

We may not “turn towards” idolatry in thought or words [213] nor may we make idols [214]. This specifically prohibits making idols for others. Both these mitzvot are among the many that are designed to keep the Jew far away from idol worship.

Korbanot must be offered in the Beit HaMikdash in a proper and pleasing manner. One must keep to the time limits presented for eating sacred meat [215]. Violation carries a death penalty from heaven.

Leave the corner of your field uncut, so that poor people might come and find grain to reap [216]; do not reap your entire field [217]. A positive mitzva and a prohibition that basically say the same thing. Here’s another pair: Leave the gleanings of the field for the poor [218]; do not take the gleanings [219]. And then,these two pairs of mitzvot are doubled again – each pair of mitzvot is counted separately as applied to a vineyard [220-223].

The mishna at the end of Makot (the mishna that is borrowed to conclude each session of Pirkei Avot and just about any and every learning session) — R. Chananya b. Akashya says: G-d wanted to merit the People of Israel, therefore he HEAPED upon us Torah and Mitzvot. This is more than saying that G-d GAVE us Torah & Mitzvot.He says we should leave the corner for the poor and He forbids us from cutting the corner. He forbids us from eating and drinking on Yom Kippur AND He commands us to fast. He forbids Melacha on Shabbat AND commands us to abstain from Melacha. This is G-d’s special relationship with the People of Israel. To the people ofthe world, He “simply” said DON’T STEAL. Many things are included in that prohibition, but the Ben Noach is commanded on GEZEL. The Jew is given a whole set of mitzvot – in this case, prohibitions – against stealing and robbing, and withholding that which belongs to others, and cheating in business, and moving the boundarymarker to illegally increase one’s land, etc. Of course, the violator has an impressive set of charges against him. But the Jew dedicated to Torah and mitzvot is showered with the benefits of many mitzvot.

Stealing [224], denying holding that which belongs to someone else [225], and swearing to that effect [226] are all forbidden. Swearing falsely [227] is forbidden; it disgraces G-d.


“A” lent his camera to “B” and subsequently asks for it back. B denies that he has A’s camera, and then swears in Beit Din that he doesn’t have it. One might think that there two violations here – a combination of a variation of stealing and false swearing. But actually, there are three (maybe 4 if stealing is also violated).Mitzva [226] overlaps both [225] and [227].

Swearing falsely is different from swearing in vain. Both are serious prohibitions. But take the following example as an interesting distinction between the two. If someone swears (with G-d’s name) that a banana is an apple, that is NOT a false oath; it is an oath in vain. Of course, it is not true that the banana is anapple, but everyone knows that and can see it for himself. The oath did not falsely convince anyone that the banana an apple. Such an oath is a frivolous misuse of G-d’s name and the sanctity of an oath and is a violation of “Thou shalt not take G-d’s name in vain”. A false oath is one that people accept as the truth,since they have no first-hand knowledge of the issue. When the lie deceives others, then there is falsehood.

That the Torah says that one who swears falsely disgraces G-d’s name by doing so is echoed by the Rambam when he distinguishes between “serious” sins and “light” sins. The Rambam puts into the serious category all sins that carry a death penalty… and swearing falsely. So destructive are false and vain oaths to the underpinningsof society, that it is categorized with the capital offenses.

Withholding someone’s property [228], robbery [229], and delaying payment of a laborer [230] are prohibited. Note that most people would retionalize the situation and not consider merely delaying payment as a form of theft. Nonetheless, the Torah implies that one is (can be?) as serious as the other.

It is forbidden to curse a fellow Jew [231]; and one may not place a stumbling block before the blind [232], meaning (not exclusively) that one may not mislead or entrap others. Care must be taken to even inadvertently mislead anyone. This can include stretching the truth or saying something that, is not actually a lie,but it will convey to others that which is not really so.


On the topic of the prohibition of delaying the payment of wages, and its partner mitzva, the mitzva to pay wages on time, the Chafetz Chaim raises an interesting point. He gives an example of the application of this mitzva that one would not usually think of. When a person takes a ride in a taxi, he obligates himself topay for the services rendered. The accepted proper time for payment is at the conclusion of the ride. And in most cases, that is exactly when a person will pay for his ride. Without giving it a second thought. Which is exactly the point of the Chafetz Chaim. He says that if it is a mitzva to pay on time and you do it,then if you are aware that you are doing a mitzva, and have Kavana to do the mitzva, then the reward for the mitzva is greater. If one doesn’t think about it, he still “gets the mitzva” (because “mitzvot do not require kavana” – with this type of mitzva). But the quality of the performance of the mitzva is certainly enhancedwith awareness and proper intention.

Here’s another example… “Can I help you with your bags?” Nice thing to do, to help someone out who is burdened with bundles. It happens to be a Torah mitzva. Having that in mind does not detract at all from the act of kindness. Au contraire.

Back to delaying wages…

Picture this: You hire a babysitter (child-minder) for the evening at 15NIS per hour. You come home after three hours, so you have to pay 45NIS. All you have is a 100NIS bill. You say to your sitter, “Sorry, I don’t have change; I’ll pay you tomorrow.” If your babysitter is not happy with the suggestion, then there mightbe a problem of the prohibition of not paying on time. Even if the sitter agrees, but only grudgingly so (and you might not be able to tell, if they hide their disappointment well), then there still might be a problem. And even if the sitter genuinely doesn’t mind waiting until the next day, honestly, sincerely, genuinely,then there is no prohibition, but there is no positive mitzva either. Better to give the sitter the hundred shekel note in fulfillment of the mitzva to pay laborers on time, and worry about your change the next day. How beautiful to be able to be involved in mitzva thought and performance in such mundane situations. AshrechaYisrael…

Fifth Aliya – 8+10=18 p’sukim – (19:15-32)

Do not pervert justice [233], nor show honor to a prominent person during a trial [234]. We must always carry out true justice [235]. Once again, note that we have a positive mitzva which, in essence, is the “flip side” of several prohibitions, the violation of which results in distorting and perverting justice.

Furthermore, technically, this positive command is directed to the judges and courts. However, the individual Jew must draw from these mitzvot the importance of being fair and applying some of these rules on an informal basis, to everyday life. Everyone is a judge from time to time – parent, sibling, child, friend – andso the laws of judges often apply in plain everyday situations.

Neither gossip nor slander (it does not matter whether what is told is true or false, it is still forbidden) [236]; do not stand by while your fellow is in danger of life, limb, or property [237]. Do not hate your fellow Jew in your heart[238]; reproach your fellow WITH sensitively [239] being careful to avoid embarrassinghim [240].


Look carefully… Embarrassing your fellow is an EXTREMELY serious sin. The source is the context of reproach. Here is a Jew who is reproaching his neighbor for Shabbat desecration, for example. If he doesn’t handle it well and causes undue distress to the Shabbat violator, then the reprover is guilty of embarrassing hisfellow. If someone in the process of fulfilling the important mitzva of HOCHACHA, must be sensitive to the feelings of the transgressor, how much more so must we be careful never to embarrass others.

Do not take revenge [241] nor bear a grudge [242]; “Love thy neighbor…” [243]

Another R. Yaakov Auerbach z”l treasure

It is well-known that mitzvot can be categorized as between Jew and G-d, Bein Adam LaMakom, and inter-personal, Bein Adam LaChaveiro.

The pasuk V’AHAVTA L’REI’A'CHA KAMOCHA ANI HASHEM represents well the interpersonal category of mitzvot. Its numeric value is:

6+1+5+2+400 (414) + 30+200+70+20 (320) 20+40+6+20 (86) + 1+50+10 (61) + 26 = 907

The mitzva that epitomizes mitzvot between person and G-d is “And you shall love G-d…” V’AHAVTA ET HASHEM ELOKECHA = (414) + 1+400 (401) + 26 + 1+30+5+10+20 (66) = 907.

A beautiful numeric reminder ofthe equal status of the two categories.

Notice the constant reminder: “I Am G-d”, or words to that effect. Being nice to each other is not just nice; it is part of G-d’s Torah and the fulfillment of a mitzva.

Think about this…

There are many mitzvot that a nice person would do even if not commanded. He’d do them because they are the things that nice people do. So what do their being mitzvot add to this person? For one thing, we are primarily servants of G-d. Our being nice is part of G-d’s commands for us. Therefore, our first motivation fordoing good deeds is our desire to fulfill G-d’s Word. From another angle… We are required to do mitzvot even if we don’t feel like it. Even if we feel that the intended recipient of our act of kindness is unworthy. There’s more.

It is forbidden to cross-breed animals of different species [244], to sow mixed seeds [245], and to wear Shaatnez, mixtures in a garment of wool and linen. Note that in this one pasuk, there is a forbidden animal- animal mix, a plant-plant mix, and an animal-plant mix. This isn’t a “reason” for the prohibition of Shaatnez,but it is one way of putting this enigmatic mitzva in perspective.

Next we have the complicated issue of the atonement for improper relations with a maidservant who is partially freed and partially still a slave.

Fruits of the first three years of a tree’s life are forbidden – ORLA [246]. The fourth year’s yield is sacred [247] and must be eaten only in Yerushalayim, or redeemed and the money used for food and drink in Yerushalayim. From the fifth year on, the fruits are permitted to all.

It is forbidden to eat gluttonously [248]. (By extension, there is a section of Shulchan Aruch devoted to proper table manners and eating habits.)

One may not consult and rely on omens, divination, conjuring, or some aspects of astology [249,250].

Shaving the temple area of the head is forbidden [251] as is shaving the face with a razor [252]. These two prohibnitions apply to men only. They are unique in that all other prohibitions apply to both men and women. (Actually, there are some other exceptions, but this is the classic example.) Permanent tatooing is forbidden[253].

The Chinuch associates all the prohibitions in the previous para graph with idolatrous practices.

Protect your daughters from loose behavior.

Keep the Shabbat and respect the place of the Mikdash (even when no Beit HaMikdash stands there) [254].

Ov and Yid’oni (mediums and wizards) are forbidden [255,256].

One must rise and otherwise respect the elderly and Torah scholars [257].

[SDT] The Talmud tells of a rabbi who told his collegue that when he sees men sitting by the roadside, he circumvents them so as not to burden them with standing for him as he passes by. His friend told him that he was not acting wisely, because the Torah attached Reverence for G-d to the mitzva of standing for the elderlyand the Torah Scholar. Therefore, through the practice of this mitzva one can come to a higher level of Yir’at HaShem. Do not “spare them” from this mitzva.

Sixth Aliya – 5+7 = 12 p’sukim – (19:33-20:7)

One must not take advantage of the newcomer to the Land (convert and/or stranger). The convert shall be treated with love; we must learn from our Egyptian experience.

It is forbidden to cheat with any false measures [258]; one must be honest in weights and measures [259].(There it is again; two sides of the same mitzva coin.)

Keep all of G-d’s statutes and laws. (This too is a commandment, but it would be “unfair” to count it among the 613 mitzvot, because it is general and all-encompassing of the other mitzvot of the Torah. The Rambam excludes this kind of mitzva from the counting of TaRYa”G in the rule he sets down in the first section ofhis Book of Mitzvot. )

The punishment for Molech (a perverse idolatrous practice involving child-offering) is death by stoning. G-d will cut off the one who serves Molech. If society does not punish the violator, G-d will. So too for the practice of Ov and Yid’oni. Sanctify yourself and be holy.

Seventh Aliya -

15+5 = 20 p’sukim – (20:8-27)

Preserve the statutes and do them, for G-d sanctifies us because of our deeds.

Cursing one’s parents, even after their deaths, is forbidden [260]. (This is an example of many, where the Torah has previous set down the prohibition, it now states the punishment for violation. The first time is considered the warning against doing the sin. This fits the Talmudic principle: We don’t punish unless we havefirst issued a warning.)

The Torah now reiterates the forbidden relationships that were presented at the end of Parshat Acharei. They are all capital offenses. The specific death penalties vary, but it is in this context that Rambam learns the command to Sanhedrin to carry out the punishment of “internal burning” when called for [261]. Rambam holdsthat each of the four death penalties is counted separately among the 613 mitzvot.

Once again, the Torah commands us to preserve all of the mitzvot, thus preventing the Land from expelling us.

In the book of D’varim, there is a recurring theme that emphasizes that G-d’s Master Plan, so to speak, was to give us Torah and Mitzvot to be observed in Eretz Yisrael. The implication from those many references is that the intended venue for Jewish Life is Eretz Yisrael. Mitzvot were meant to be kept in E. Yisrael. (Ofcourse a Jew must keep Torah and Mitzvot outside the Land, but here is the natural environment for Torah.) From here we see the other side of the coin. Keep the mitzvot in Eretz Yisrael. That’s the plan. If not, you don’t keep Eretz Yisrael. Mitzvot are for Eretz Yisrael. And Eretz Yisrael is for mitzvot. They are bodyand soul of the Torah.

It is forbidden to follow the customs and practices of the nations amongst whom we find ourselves [262]. This prohibition applies to idolatrous practices, immoral acts, and those things that have no apparent reason. In other words, there is usually no prohibition of copying a non-Jewish practice that is reasonable and constructive.

In order to inherit the land of Israel, we must not behave in the abominable ways of the nations who preceded us. We must distinguish between kosher and non-kosher animals (and life-styles); we must be holy and distinct from others. We are not automatically different from anyone else. Torah makes us different. Torah givesus our unique identities.

Notice the dual role that every Jew must play. We are each individuals and we are part of Klal Yisrael. We are exhorted to keep the Torah as individuals, but we are also “advised” to be faithful to G-d so that tragedies will not happen to the People of Israel as a whole.

Ov and Yid’oni are punishable by stoning.

The last 3 p’sukim are reread for the Maftir.

Haftara – 9 p’sukim Amos 9:7-15

This is the “Haftara of choice” of the Ashkenazim; S’faradim read a different Haftara. This short passage seems to pick up the thread of the end of K’doshim, namely that we will be exiled for forsaking Torah and mitzvot, for not becoming the holy people that we can be, that we must be.

But the prophecy ends on a positive note, that there will come a time when we will be restored to our Land, and the Land will be abundantly bountiful, and the people will have repented their ways and we will never again be uprooted from the Land.

As the Yom HaAtzma’ut Shabbat reading, can we not see the message of this prophecy and hope and pray (and work towards) its realization in the Medina that was established 51 years ago, this past week.