Each week we discuss one familiar halakhic practice and try to show its beauty and meaning. The columns are based on Rabbi Meir's commentary Meaning in Mitzvot on Kitzur Shulchan Arukh.
PROHIBITION ON SELF-MUTILATION
In several places the Torah forbids mutilating the body as a sign of mourning. In our parsha, we learn: “You are children of HaShem your G-d; don’t cut yourselves nor make a bald spot between your eyes” (Devarim 14:1).
Ramban’s commentary explains the connection between the beginning and the end of this last verse. Since we are children of HaShem, His chosen people, we have confidence that He will judge us favorably, and that the departed will find eternal rest with G-d. While we are still sad that we are separated from our loved ones, our sorrow is tempered by the faith that the deceased will receive an eternal reward in the World to Come. Therefore, our expressions of grief need to be restrained, to show that our sorrow does not approach despair.
According to the Ramban, the rule that we shouldn’t mourn excessively even in permissible expressions of mourning is really an extension of this Torah mitzva (SA YD 394:1; explained in the column on Shelach Lekha).
DON’T DIVIDE INTO SECTS
This mitzva is also related to the first half of the verse. Since we are children of HaShem, we are all one family. We have to express this by having the greatest possible degree of national unity, and avoid at all costs dividing ourselves up into conflicting factions.
Rabbi Meir has recently completed writing a monumental companion to Kitzur Shulchan Aruch which beautifully presents the meanings in our mitzvot and halacha.
Rabbi Meir authors a popular weekly on-line Q&A column, "The Jewish Ethicist", which gives Jewish guidance on everyday ethical dilemmas in the workplace. The column is a joint project of the JCT Center for Business Ethics, Jerusalem College of Technology - Machon Lev; and Aish HaTorah. You can see the Jewish Ethicist, and submit your own questions, at www.jewishethicist.com or at www.aish.com.