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Parshat Acharei Mos

Acharei Mos



            The Parsha of Acharei Mos describes the entire service performed by the KoheinGodol on Yom Kippur in th Beis Hamikdosh.  As a remembrance to this holy work, which was canceled with the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash.  Our sages decreed that we should recite the Avodah between Shacharie  and Musaf on Yom Kippur. This Avodah, is one of the main parts of the Yom Kippur service.

            During the time of the Bais Hamikdash, Bnei Yisrael felt great respect and reverence when they saw this Divine service done by the Kohen Gadol. Today to our chagrin, we no longer have the Bais Hamikdash, but if we listen and understand the words of the Avodah, we will be able to ask Hashem to consider our words as the sacrificial service, to help us atone for all our sins.

            This portion of Acharei Mos is read on Yom Kippur so that all of Klal Yisroel will hear about the death of Aharon's two sons and grieve for them. As a result, they will weep for their sins and say: "Aharon's two sons were even greater than Moshe Rabeinu and Aharon. Because of a relatively insignificant sin, they died. We are full of sins. How much more so do we deserve such a fate." Consequently, they will grieve for their own sins and this in itself will be their atonement.

            In contrast to the Sholosh Regolim of Pesach, Shavuos and Succos, Yom Kippur is not mentioned at all in Sefer Shmos or Sefer Devorim. However, an entire Perek was dedicated to this sacred day structured by the Posuk: For on  this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you from all your sins; you shall be clean before Hashem.

            R' Chiya connects the death of Aharon's sons with the service of Yom Kippur, explaining that just as the death of the righteous is a means of atonement. The dissipation of the righteous from our midst causes us to reflect upon our deeds and regret and repent our shortcomings. The terrible loss which the people experience through the death of the righteous, represents a Korban Chatos- Sin Offering, which corresponds to the sacrifices offered in the Bais Hamikdash.

            The Main issue emphasized here is a warning to Aharon, the Kohen Gadol, not to repeat the sin of Nadav and Avihu, and enter the Kodesh Kedoshim, Holy of holies, at all times.

            Hashem told Moshe Rabeinu that Aharon should not go into the Holy of Holies all year except on Yom Kippur. And even then, Aharon was not permitted to enter the Holy of Holies except when he was burning incense and sprinkling the blood of the special sacrifices offered on the day of Yom Kippur.

            What does the scripture teach here? Rabbi Eleazar Azariah used to compare this to a sick person to whom a doctor came. The doctor said to him: "Do not eat anything cold, and do not lie in a damp place." Another doctor came and said to him: "Do not eat anything cold and do  not lie in a damp place lest you die as a certain man died." The latter urged him on more than the first. For the same reason it is stated, "after the death of two sons of Aharon."

            The Torah warns the Kohein Gadol at the beginning of the Parsha, that he not come at all times into the Holyh place. Emphasis was placed on this warning by mentioning the death of the two sons of Aharon who entered the Holy of Holies without permission.

            As long as Aharon was alive, Hashem wanted Aharon, and no other Kohein to burn the incense in morning and evening. When Aharon's two sons died, Moshe Rabeinu was bewildered. He tried to imagine for what sin they died. Hashem told Moshe that they died because they offered incense before Hashem while their father, Aharon, was still alive, and at this time, this was a service that was given only to Aharon.

            When Nadav and Avihu were burned, the heavenly angels said to Hashem; "For what purpose did you split the sea for Bnei Yisroel?"

            What is the meaning of this saying, and what connection does the question by the angels regarding the splitting of the sea, have to the death of Nadav and Avihu?

            Among the many reasons for the punishment of Nadav and Avihu, Chazal state that they died because of Aharon's sin with the Egel Hazahav. According to this opinion, although Aharon acted unwillingly, nevertheless, it was Avodah Zoroh, and with regard to Avodah Zoroh, אונס כרצון , reluctance is considered willfulness. He should have been willing to die rather than have committed Avodah Zoroh.

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