Torah Weekly

For the week ending 30 April 2016 / 22 Nisan 5776

Parshat Acharei Mot

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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G-d instructs the kohanim to exercise extreme care when they enter the Mishkan. On Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol is to approach the holiest part of the Mishkan after special preparations and wearing special clothing. He brings offerings unique to Yom Kippur, including two identical goats that are designated by lottery. One is "for G-d" and is offered in the Temple, while the other is "for Azazel" in the desert. The Torah states the individual's obligations on Yom Kippur: On the 10th day of the seventh month, one must afflict oneself. We abstain from eating and drinking, anointing, wearing leather footwear, washing, and marital relations.

Consumption of blood is prohibited. The blood of slaughtered birds and undomesticated beasts must be covered. The people are warned against engaging in the wicked practices that were common in Egypt. Incest is defined and prohibited. Marital relations are forbidden during a woman's monthly cycle. Homosexuality, bestiality and child sacrifice are prohibited.


Out on a Limb

“He shall don a sacred linen Tunic; linen breeches shall be upon his flesh…” (16:4)

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 49b) states that the first garment that the kohen puts on when he begins the Divine service is the breeches. It learns this from the phrase “upon his flesh” in the above verse. For the breeches to be “upon his flesh” it must mean that they are the first garment to be put on.

Which begs the question: Why then didn’t the verse list the breeches before the sacred linen Tunic?

The answer lies in the description of the linen Tunic as “sacred.” All the vestments of the kohen were holy; why then is the Tunic singled out specifically as “sacred?”

In the service of the Beit Hamikdash the kohen used his whole body — his thighs, his legs, his shoulders, his arms, and his torso. The service of the Beit Hamikdash sanctified those limbs that performed the avoda service, and the limbs in turn sanctified the clothes that covered them.

The holiness of the Tunic is because it covered the kohen’s whole body, whereas the breeches covered only the lower half of the body, and thus fewer limbs, and, consequently, had relatively less sanctity.

Similarly, a Sefer Torah has more sanctity than tefillin, and tefillin more than a mezuzah. This is because there are more words of Torah in a Sefer Torah than in tefillin and more in tefillin than in a mezuza; the more words of holiness, the more these words sanctify the physical vessel that contains them.

  • Source: Ha’amek Davar

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