In Parshat Shmini, we learned of the great tragedy of the death of Aharon's 2 sons. They entered the "Kodesh Kedoshim" (Holy of Holies) with the "Ketoret" (incense) without the command of Hashem. Now we learn of the command of Hashem to Aharon HaKohain (along with his descendants who will be the Kohanim Gedolim, the most holy of the nation), to enter the most holy of places on Yom Kippur (the most holy of days). Before entering the Kodesh Kedoshim, the Kohain dips in the Mikvah (a big bathtub containing a specific amount of rain water used to purify the person who dunks in it). He wears the special garments used for the holy service.
The Kohain Gadol had 8 special garments he wore year round. These were more honorable and more befitting than the regular 4 white linen garments worn by the regular Kohanim. For the service of the Kohain Gadol on Yom Kippur in the Kodesh Kedoshim, he wore simple white linen garments, similar to those worn by the regular Kohanim during the regular days of the year. Sounds pretty strange, huh? What about all those fancy golden & royal colored garments?


When the Kohain Gadol is seen by the nation, he must dress according to his stature amongst the people. The nation must view his position as one of honor and glory. His clothes must therefore reflect that exalted position. When appearing before Hashem, there is no need to appear in any way on the outside which reflects our position in this world. Hashem knows exactly who we are and what we've done. The clothes play no role in the way Hashem views us. {The reason why we dress nicer on Shabbos & Yom- Tov and when we Daven, is in order for us to show Hashem how important it is for us that we honor the holy days and the time we formally speak with Him. The way we dress reflects the way we feel, or the way we want to feel, or the way we know we should be feeling} The Kohain Gadol is fully aware that honor is due only to Hashem. The honor the Kohain Gadol himself receives in this world is due to the fact that he serves Hashem.
The rabbi dresses more honorable since he represents the word of Hashem. He doesn't wear more respectful clothing because he feels that he is more respectful. On the contrary. The closer one is to Hashem, the more he realizes how far he is from Hashem. This is why the closest person to Hashem (Moshe Rabbeinu) was the most modest. He spoke to Hashem 'face-to-Face' and realized that he was so far from where he should be. So if the rabbi realizes even more than you & I the greatness of Hashem and how far he is from Hashem, so why does he make himself look more respectful? The rabbi must be viewed by the people as the one worthy of honor for who he is and his holy task. He must view himself as one who has great responsibility as a result of the task he has. He probably feels as though his achievements don't meet up with his position.
One of the greatest achievements in the Torah world over the past few hundred years, was the great Halachic work by the 'Chofetz Chaim' known as the 'Mishna Berurah.' After this masterpiece was completed, the Chofetz Chaim said; "Hashem, you have given me the opportunity to write the Mishna Berurah, but what have I given you?!" The Chofetz Chaim didn't go on "Oprah" (or the other 50 talk shows) to tell the millions of viewers what inspired him to author the great work. Nor did he autograph copies at Barnes & Nobles. He didn't even want to be the one to author the Sefer. He wrote to the Torah leaders in Europe urging them to arrange for someone to take upon themselves this major work. Since no one else took it upon themselves, he did.

The fact that the Kohain Gadol wears these simple white garments, shows 2 ideas. The first, as we've just learned, is to show humility. In front of Hashem, we cannot show any of our own honor, since any honor due to us, is really due to Hashem (after all, without Hashem, there is nothing at all which can be accomplished). The second, is to show the level of purity and holiness we are striving to reach. Similar to the level of the holy angels of Hashem, whose appearance is symbolized by white. There are 2 times a year, when the holiness and purity of 'Klal Yisroel' are similar to the holy angels; Yom Kippur and the night of the Pesach Seder. For this reason, the white 'Kittle' is worn.

The night of the Pesach Seder, a guest of Rav Hutner knocked the table and the wine spilled on Rav Hutner's Kittle. Instead of making a big deal of it and possibly embarrassing the guest, Rav Hutner profoundly declared; "A kittle without wine stains, is like a Yom Kippur machzor without tears!"

The Kohain Gadol brings a sacrifice to Hashem to atone for the Aveirot (sins) of him & his family. He places his hands on the animal & confesses to Hashem what they have done wrong. This is called "Vidui." This is 1 of the 3 steps of T'shuvah (repentance- returning to Hashem). In order for a person to do away with their past mistakes, they must first be acknowledged. When a person can admit what was done wrong, it then can be changed.
We see today how anorexia (when a person refuses to eat and gain weight) is treated. Before a patient is checked into the hospital for help, a document must be signed by the anorexic, admitting that there's a problem and that help is desired. Without a person willing to admit that there's a problem, there's no real way of doing away with it. After all, if it doesn't exist, than why is there a need to change it? If there's nothing wrong with the ---------- you bought, there's no need to return it.


The next part of the service, was the 2 goats- Se'eir LaHashem & Se'eir LaAzazel what's the deal with the goats? There are 2 identical looking goats brought to the Kohain Gadol on Yom Kippur. As similar as they are, they will be used for the most extreme opposite causes. Just like Yaakov & Eisov were twins and similar in many ways, when they matured, they were the 2 most opposite types. Yaakov was one of the greatest people to walk the face of the earth, while Eisov was the epitome of evil. The struggle between Yaakov & Eisov began in their mother's womb, and will end with the coming of Moshiach. Then, we will inherit Eretz Yisroel, while Eisov inherits mount Seir. Interesting! Same word for the goat and the mountain.
The Kohain Gadol picks from a small container the 2 different lots- destinies for the goats. One goat will be (for) LaAzazel (tossed off a cliff as a type of offering to the powers of evil which Hashem placed in this world). The other goat, will be chosen (for) 'LaHashem.' This was a type of sin offering for the Aveirot of the nation.
Since these 2 goats were identical in appearance, price & height, how was it that the Kohain Gadol did not get mixed up between them? He tied a red string on the head of the goat picked LaHashem & a string on the neck of the goat 'li- HAshem.' The string on the goat LaAzazel miraculously turned white after the goat was thrown off the cliff. This was the sign to B'nei Yisroel that Hashem has forgiven all the Aveirot of the nation.

The Kohain Gadol prepares the Ketoret for his entrance. As the smoke arises from the burning Ketoret, he humbly enters the most holy place on earth, the place where no other man may enter. On this special day, Yom Kippur, the Jewish people are being represented by the Kohain Gadol as he performs the holy service there. He said a special t'fillah for the people.

During the time of the second Bait HaMikdash, the Romans appointed the Kohain Gadol. The person chosen was not necessarily the greatest Tzaddik. These people who weren't worthy of this exalted position, died the moment entering the Kodesh Kedoshim. They decided to attach a rope to the new Kohain Gadol. if the Kohain Gadol was one of those unworthy ones, they would be able to remove his body from the Kodesh Kedoshim using the rope.
Don't put yourself in a position which is far above your level. Holiness is a serious matter. Just as a person cannot look straight into the sun, or walk into a fire without the necessary gear for it, one cannot enter the holiest place without the necessary spiritual gear. Remember the movie, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" when the Aron was exposed? One who is not on the level to see it, dies (thank you Steven Speilberg).


Now that we've learned all about the Yom-Kippur service, we'll discuss the Mitzvot concerning blood. The Torah commands us not to eat blood. "Who would eat blood" you ask. "I'm not Dracula?!" Neither are the billions of people who eat meat which isn't 'kashered.'
What does this mean; Kashered?
The meat is soaked, rinsed, salted (salt removes the blood), rinsed a few more times and is free from blood. Our great-great-grandmothers used to do this by themselves. If they had a question about the meat, or how they kashered it, they would go to the Rav (Rabbi) of the city to ask him. Now, we hop in the car, drive to the butcher and buy meat which was already kashered. Any questions regarding the Kashrut of the meat, was already asked to a rav.
What could be the understanding of this mitzvah. This seems to be such an important mitzvah, since the torah repeats it often and the punishment for those who violate it is severe?!
We know that many of the Mitzvot regarding animals we eat, emphasizes compassion we must have towards animals. Hashem gave us animals to use for food, but we still must show compassion how we go about its' preparation. The blood is the life- force of the animal. We are what we eat. The eating of blood has an animalistic affect on the holy soul of the Jewish people. Eating meat is a very important part of our religion. The way we rejoice on Yom-Tov is by eating meat.


Another mitzvah with blood is, after the slaughtering of the bird or animal, the blood on the ground is covered. The blood of the animal must be covered so when the meat is eaten, there's no trace of life left to the animal. This seemingly insignificant act, is what refines us as people. These seemingly insignificant acts, draw us away from the animalistic behavior of the world around us.
We must treat animals with the respect due to any creation of Hashem. We are not allowed to cause unnecessary pain to animals. They are there for us to use, not to abuse. A person who treats animals properly, because Hashem commands us, will treat people properly.


Also in the Parsha, we learn of the Mitzvah of not following in the ways of the non-Jews. Although we treat everyone with respect, the Torah emphasizes the importance of being separate. The way we live is very different than the other nations. Our values are very different. Hashem chose us from amongst the rest of the world as His nation. We cannot live like ordinary people. We cannot speak, act and even think as ordinary people. We must live a higher and more spiritual life.


This theme (living a holy life) is found repeatedly in the Parsha. We continue along the same thought, as the Parsha teaches us the importance of living this type of life in Eretz Yisroel. The Torah says that the land of Israel will 'vomit' out those who live there without the rules of Torah. Since Israel is a holy land, it can only take behavior which is holy. When the holy people live in the holy land according to the laws of the holy Torah, all is well. If not (chas v'shalom), problems begin and the land will spit out those people. This is the nature which exists there & we see it today. Many people who don't live the type of lifestyle which the Torah describes, find no reason to be in Israel anymore. (There are people who would like to be there, but for some reason cannot- this is not who we are talking about)} Without the Torah's values, many don't see a point to struggle living in Israel. This saddens us to no end. We daven for Moshiach to come & bring back those who left Eretz Yisroel, as well as we 'Americans.'
© 1998 by R' Matis Friedman, H.A.F.T.R.
R' Matis Friedman's email address is shprophets@aol.com

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