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In our double parashah, we read about both Yom Kippur and Shabbat. R’ Moshe Yechiel Halevi Epstein z”l (1890-1971; the Ozhorover Rebbe in New York and Bnei Brak) writes: There are many similarities between Yom Ha’kippurim and Shabbat. Both are days of atonement. [The connection between Yom Kippur and atonement is well-known.] Regarding Shabbat, the Gemara (Shabbat 119b) teaches: If one prays on Friday night and recites “Vy’chulu,” the two angels who accompany a person place their hands on his head, and say (Yeshayah 6:7), “Your iniquity has gone away and your sin shall be atoned for.” The Gemara (Shabbat 118b) also states: If one observes Shabbat according to its law, even if he is an idolator like the generation of Enosh, he is forgiven.

In the zemirot for motzaei Shabbat we say, “He Who separates between holy and secular, may He forgive our sins.” At first glance, it is difficult to see what connection this request has to Shabbat. [For this reason, some suggest that this zemer was intended to be sung on motzaei Yom Kippur.] The Ozhorover Rebbe explains, however, that because Shabbat is a day of atonement, yet it is forbidden to mar the joy of the day by mentioning sin, therefore we make this request on motzaei Shabbat.

Nevertheless, the Ozhorover Rebbe continues, there is a difference between Shabbat and Yom Ha’kippurim. On the latter, we attain atonement through active teshuvah / repentance. We are required to deprive ourselves of food, drink and certain other pleasures. And, in the time of the Bet Hamikdash, the kohen gadol brought many special sacrifices. In contrast, the atonement that we obtain on Shabbat is incidental to the holiness of the day. We do not need to do anything special to obtain it other than to observe Shabbat properly. (Esh Dat Vol. VIII p.521)

“He shall don a sacred linen tunic; linen breeches shall be on his flesh, he shall gird himself with a linen sash, and cover his head with a linen turban.” (16:4)

When the Kohen Gadol enters the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, he does not wear the usual “uniform” of the Kohen Gadol; rather, he wears all- white linen garments. The reason, say our Sages, is that the everyday garments of the Kohen Gadol contain gold, which is reminiscent of the sin of the golden calf. Wearing them would violate the principle: “Ain kategor na’aseh saneigor”/ “A prosecutor [i.e., gold] may not become an advocate for the defense.”

R’ Moshe Leib Shachor z”l (Yerushalayim; 1894-1964) notes that this principle was not derived by our Sages from any verse. Rather, it’s a matter of decency; one person shouldn’t be prosecuting another unless he is certain in the depths of his heart of the latter’s guilt. How then could a prosecutor ever switch sides?! Furthermore, even if the prosecutor now doubts his former certainty and believes the accused is innocent, the lingering vestiges of his past beliefs will limit his effectiveness as a defense counsel. That is human nature. [While these concerns don’t literally apply to the Kohen Gadol’s garments, the Torah did not “design” the avodah / Temple service in a way that violates principles of decent behavior.]

How does a person become an effective spokesman for the defense of the Jewish People or in defense of individual sinners? R’ Shachor writes: One can be an effective advocate if he has previously been in the shoes of the person for whom he is advocating. If he has overcome certain bad traits, he understands the other person’s challenges and feels his pain.

Alternatively, an effective advocate is someone who appreciates the beauty and unity of Creation as a whole and therefore values each of its separate parts. He knows that nothing in the Universe lacks a purpose; therefore, he feels obligated to advocate for every person. (Koach Ha’teshuvah p.20)

“Speak to the entire assembly of Bnei Yisrael and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for holy am I, Hashem, your Elokim.” (19:2)

R’ Moshe ben Nachman z”l (Ramban; Spain and Eretz Yisrael; 1194-1270) writes: After the Torah has commanded us regarding kashrut, prohibited relations, etc., a person still could be a glutton or a drunkard within the confines of the law. Thus, the Torah commands, “You shall be holy,” i.e., you shall refrain from excess pleasures even when they are permitted by halachah. (Ramban Al Ha’Torah)

R’ Shneur Zalman of Liadi z”l (1745-1812; first Lubavitcher Rebbe) writes: This holiness is not an all or nothing proposition. If a person subdues his urges even briefly, for example, by delaying his meal for a short time and studying Torah during those minutes, or if one conquers his urge to engage in idle chatter even for a short time, that, too, is a form of holiness. As a result of even that small measure of holiness, a person can expect a great deal of Divine assistance in serving Hashem. (Likkutei Amarim Tanya, ch.27)

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart; hochei’ach tochi’ach / you shall reprove your fellow . . .” (19:17)

What is the difference between “hochei’ach” and “tochi’ach”? R’ Yitzchak ben Sheshet Perfet z”l (Rivash; Spain; 1326-1408) explains:

“Hochei’ach” (“hochachah”) refers to proving to one side of an argument that the other side is correct, as Yaakov said to Lavan (Bereishit 31:37), “V’yochichu / let them decide between the two of us.” “Tochi’ach” (“tochachah”) refers to rebuking an individual for his bad deeds. (She’eilot U’teshuvot Rivash No.431)

R’ Shmuel Shmelke Guntzler z”l (1834-1911; rabbi of Oyber Visheve Hungary; his yahrzeit was this week) writes: In light of Rivash’s interpretation, we can explain our verse to be teaching that successful rebuke has several parts. First, do not hate your “brother” even if he has sinned; then you will be able to give “hochachah,” i.e., to prove to your “brother” that his behavior was wrong and the Torah is correct. At the same time, speak to Hashem in defense of your “brother,” even if it means that you must give “tochachah” / rebuke, i.e., pointing out to Hashem that He actually bears part of the blame for man’s sins.

This is what Moshe Rabbeinu himself did. We read (Devarim 1:1), “These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Yisrael, on the other side of the Jordan, concerning the Wilderness, concerning the Aravah, opposite the Sea of Reeds, between Paran and Tophel, and Lavan, and Chazerot, and Di- zahav.” On the one hand, Rashi z”l comments about the phrase “Di-Zahav”: This should be interpreted to mean, “sufficiency of gold,” i.e., he reproved them on account of the golden calf which they had made because they had an abundance of gold. [Until here from Rashi.] On the other hand, the Gemara (Berachot 32a) interprets: Because of the abundance of gold which You gave them,” i.e., Moshe was rebuking Hashem, so-to-speak, in order to lessen the sins of Bnei Yisrael in His eyes. Both of these are included in the commandment in our verse.

R’ Guntzler adds: This is why the book of Devarim is called by our Sages, “Mishneh Torah.” The word “mishneh” is related to “shnayim” / “two.” In Devarim / Mishneh Torah, Moshe Rabbeinu had two intentions: on the one hand, to rebuke Bnei Yisrael, but, on the other hand, to lessen their sins in the eyes of G-d. (Meishiv Nefesh: Parashat Pinchas)

Letters from Our Sages

Below are excerpts from a letter written by R’ Moshe ben Maimon z”l (Rambam/Maimonides; 1135-1204), who lived in Egypt, to R’ Yehonatan Hakohen z”l (approx. 1150-1215) in Lunel, Provence (southern France). The letter was a response to a series of letters posing questions about Rambam’s halachic code, Mishneh Torah, and his Moreh Nevochim (Guide to the Perplexed).

I, Moshe, inform you, the rabbi and kohen, R’ Yehonatan, that when I received your letter and your questions, I rejoiced a great joy, and I said to myself [borrowing Ruth 4:14]: “Thank G-d that He has not left you [i.e., himself–Rambam] without a redeemer.” I knew then that my words had reached someone who knew what they were about, who understood their secrets, and who will discuss them properly. I said to myself [borrowing Ruth 4:15]: “He will become your life-restorer, and sustain your old age.” Everything you asked was worthy of being asked, and everything that you challenged was worthy of being challenged. Do not fear, for I am with you, and I have already answered your questions today [in an enclosure to this letter]. As for the fact that the answers were delayed for several years, it was only because of illness and other troubles. I was sick for approximately one year and, now that I am cured, I am still like a sick person who is not in danger. Most of the day, I recline in bed, and the yoke of the gentiles is on my neck to heal them. They have weakened me and do not leave me alone for even an hour, not during the day and not at night. What can I do, since my reputation has spread to many lands? Moreover, I am not like I was in my youth. . . Therefore, do not be upset that I dictated the answers to others and they are not in my handwriting, for I don’t have time for this due to my weakness and my shortness of breath caused by those who trouble me constantly. –To be continued–