July 23, 2024 ~ Sh PINEHAS. M SABA.

Shabbat Ahare Mot - שבת אחרי מות



וידם אהרן - In what was to be a very happy day, the inauguration of the Tabernacle turns into a catastrophe as Nadab and Abihu err in the incense offering and get consumed by a Divine fire. The loss of two sons in a single day in what appears to be an accident is enough to make most parents lose their minds and abandon faith, but this is not the case with Aharon, the High Priest. When faced with this great challenge, Aharon is courageous, and in acceptance of God's will, he remains silent (וידם אהרן). Aharon knew that all eyes were on him, and that if he were to lapse and lose self-control, this would create a ripple effect that would cause the entire nation to raise doubts about the religion. According to Rashi (1040-1105), Aharon's composure was praiseworthy and he was rewarded with receiving independent prophecy from God; as the words in Leviticus 10:8 (וידבר ה׳ אל אהרן לאמר) clearly indicate. Beth Torah, May 6, 2017.


ואל יבא בכל עת אל הקדש - After the mysterious deaths of Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron who died in service, multiple messages are offered to prevent similar tragedies from happening again. In Leviticus 16:2, Aaron is instructed "not to go at all times to the Holy" (ואל יבא בכל עת אל הקדש), meaning, Aaron's presence in the Holy of Holies (קדש קדשים) should be limited to only very specific times. A different interpretation to this verse, however, is that one should not blunder, like Nadab and Abihu, by devoting all of their time and energy into pursuits of holiness and no other endeavors. Their error of offering a foreign fire (אש זרה) may have been a desperate attempt to deceive the people into proving themselves as worthy priests. We learn from this message that as a general rule, God favors a more incremental, limited, and patient approach to holiness and not a religious approach that requires one to be too extreme in their actions. Beth Torah Bulletin, April 28, 2018.

Top of the Page

שני השעירם גרלות - In this week's perasha, for the words "Shenei HaSeirim Goralot" (Leviticus 16:8), notice something unusual. Most Torah Scrolls follow a rule called "Vavei HaAmudim," where each page opens with the letter Vav. Leviticus 16:8, however, is one of only six exceptions to this rule. The acrostic בי״ה שמ״ו is used as a reminder of the different letters that a Torah page can open with. This pneumonic device (except the Vav) also reminds us of the exceptions of when a page does not open with a Vav. Bet refers to "Bereshit" (Genesis 1:1), Yod to "Yehuda" (Genesis 49:8), Heh to "Habaim" (Exodus 14:28), Shin to "Shemor"(Exodus 34:11) or "Shenei HaSeirim" (Leviticus 16:8), and Mem to "Ma-Tobu" (Numbers 24:5). The Vav in the acrostic signifies that the words "VeAida Bam" in Deuteronomy 31:28 must be at the opening of a Torah page. We are unaware of any explanations for the above exceptions of not starting the page with the letter Vav. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, May 6, 2019.

Level Playing Field

וְכָל־מְלָאכָה֙ לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֔וּ הָֽאֶזְרָ֔ח וְהַגֵּ֖ר הַגָּ֥ר בְּתוֹכְכֶֽם - The concept of a "level playing field" is about promoting a fair situation; one where each person has an equal chance to succeed by needing to obey the same rules. In ancient Israelite society, the prohibition of working on Yom Kippur not only extended to Israelite citizens, but also to resident foreigners (Leviticus 16:29). The foreigners, though not required to fast, were required to obey certain laws. This ruling may be in order to promote fairness and not allow the foreigners from having an economic advantage of working on a day prohibited by Israelites. During the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, there are some counties in a given state that seek to reopen their businesses despite statewide closures. If only one county opens, however, it might potentially give them a business advantage over those that continue to remain closed. In order to avoid any possible unfair advantage to some businesses, each state should decide when the time is right to reopen keeping this principle in mind. Beth Torah Bulletin, May 2, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: HIJAZ

For Shabbat Ahare Mot-Qedoshim (Leviticus 16:1- 20:27), the appropriate maqam, according to all Aleppo sources, is HIJAZ, in order to mourn the deaths of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu. Maqam HIJAZ, named after the Arabian peninsula, is generally applied in the Syrian tradition to evoke the mood of sadness. One opinion, favored by Cantor Gabriel A Shrem, is to mix Maqam BAYAT with HIJAZ when Ahare Mot and Qedoshim are combined. Sephardic Pizmonim Project, www.pizmonim.com.