Achrei Mos – Kedoshim 5777


Rabbi Meyer Schwab, the Rosh Kollel of the Denver Community Kollel, related an incredible story about his father, Rav Shimon Schwab. Rav Shimon once traveled to Radin to discuss a major life decision with the Chofetz Chaim. Before saying any initial greeting, the Chofetz Chaim said to Rav Schwab, “Do you know that when the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt, both of us will want to perform the Avodah? However, only I will be able to do the Avodah, and you will watch from behind.”
The Chofetz Chaim continued, “Why is this so? Because many years ago, when Klal Yisrael partook in the Chet Ha’eigel, it was only my ancestors, the Kohanim, who refused to sin. The Kohanim thought for themselves and stood up for what was right, thereby making them greater than the rest of Klal Yisrael to this day.” The Chofetz Chaim concluded by saying, “R’ Shimon, always remember that whenever Hashem sends you an opportunity, make sure you seize the moment and stand up for what you believe is right.”
From this story, one can learn the importance of seizing opportunities in life. Similarly, Pinchas Hakohen was praised for killing Zimri, as Pinchas took advantage of the moment and did what he felt was the right thing to do in that situation.
At the beginning of Parshas Acharei Mos, this idea seems to be challenged. Aharon Hakohen’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, thought that they were doing the right thing in grabbing the opportunity to become closer to Hashem by bringing a Ketores in the Bais Hamikdash. However, they were punished severely with death. Why were Nadav and Avihu punished? Shouldn’t they have been rewarded for what they did?
The following story provides an answer. When Rav Chaim Volozhiner thought of the revolutionary idea of starting a “modern-day” type of Yeshiva, he went to the Vilna Gaon for his advice and blessings. He was so excited about his idea and thought it was such an opportune time to implement this type of institution. To his amazement, the Gaon was not enthusiastic about it and did not endorse the idea, although he did not negate it either. Rav Chaim listened to the Vilna Gaon and put his idea on hold.
About a year and a half later, Rav Chaim went back to the Vilna Gaon, presenting his idea again. This time, to his surprise, the Gaon fully embraced the idea and gave his blessings. When Rav Chaim heard this, he asked why the Vilna Gaon had not approved of the idea initially and only this time gave his blessings.
The Gaon responded that the first time they met, he got the impression that Rav Chaim had so much excitement that perhaps the idea was not Leshem Shamayim. He felt that he may have had irrational enthusiasm. However, now that the Vilna Gaon saw that Rav Chaim was more relaxed and had thought out his idea of opening a Yeshiva more clearly, he gave his blessing to pursue the great project.
The same is true in every situation. One must always utilize great opportunities in order to grow. It is important to make sure one is thinking through what he does before jumping into action. Many times, one needs to think if it is appropriate to act upon the opportunity in front of him. He should remember that sometimes it may be better not to take action right away. This is reflected in this story of the Vilna Gaon, and perhaps the same is true for Nadav and Avihu. It is obvious from the death penalty of Nadav and Avihu that Hashem did not appreciate what they did. It was an irrational spurt of energy, rather than an opportunity for growth.
This is why the Torah reading on Yom Kippur begins with the death of Nadav and Avihu. The lesson learned from their death provides a perspective as to how and when to utilize opportunities Hashem sends our way.


לפני עור לא תתן מכשול )ויקרא יט:יד(

Do not place an obstacle before a blind person (Vayikra 19:14)

The Issur of לפני עור forbids helping or causing a Jew to transgress a Torah commandment. Although violating a לאו , a negative Torah commandment, generally warrants Malkus, לפני עור does not receive any punishment. What is the reason for this exemption?
The Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvah 232) explains that_ לפני
עור is considered a לאו שאין בו מעשה , a לאו which involves no action, and therefore receives no Malkus. Some Acharonim explain this to mean that one only violates the Issur of לפני עור at the time that a prohibited act is committed with the materials he supplied. For example, one who provides wine for a Nazir to drink only violates לפני עור at the time the Nazir actually drinks the wine. Thus, the act of providing wine itself does not necessarily involve לפני
עור , and is therefore considered by the Chinuch a לאו שאין בו מעשה .
The Ritva (Yevamos 84b) offers a different explanation for the Malkus exemption, based on the rule of לאו
שבכללות . This means that a לאו which incorporates other commandments does not incur Malkus for its transgression. He says that because the Issur of לפני עור
entails that one not facilitate the transgression of any of the Torah’s laws, it falls under the category of לאוין שבכללות .
The Ritva’s explanation seems puzzling. Isn’t לפני עור
its own, unique Issur? Why is it considered a לאו
שבכללות just because it is associated with other לאוין ? Furthermore, what is the underlying Machlokes between the Chinuch and the Ritva?
Rav Simcha Wasserman, in his glosses to his father’s Kovetz He’aros (48:9), suggests that the Ritva holds that
לפני עור is not merely its own independent לאו . Rather, incorporated in every prohibited act is the accompanying Issur to assist a fellow Jew in violating the prohibited act. For example, included in the Issur which prohibits a Nazir from drinking wine is the Issur of לפני עור , which prohibits another Jew from helping a Nazir to drink wine. Because לפני עור accompanies every לאו in the Torah, the Ritva considers it a לאו שבכללות .
The Chinuch, however, feels that לפני עור is not an “all-inclusive” לאו . Rather, it is its own independent Issur. Thus, the Malkus exemption must have a different explanation, and the Chinuch therefore classifies לפני
עור as a לאו שאין בו מעשה .
With these approaches to understanding the Issur of
לפני עור , Rav Simcha resolves his father’s Safek. Rav Elchonon wonders whether one is required to give up his life rather than assist a fellow Jew in violating one of the three cardinal sins, e.g., שפיכת דמים , murder. On one hand, the rule of יהרג ואל יעבור warrants giving up one’s own life rather than taking another’s life. On the other hand, since לפני עור is not one of the three cardinal sins, perhaps one must assist in the murder rather than give up his life. Under which category does
לפני עור of שפיכת דמים fall?
Rav Simcha himself suggests that the resolution depends on the aforementioned Machlokes. According to the Ritva, perhaps the Issur of helping facilitate a murder is included in the prohibition against murdering another Jew. Consequently, the Ritva would opine that even לפני עור of שפיכת
דמים requires that one give up his own life to avoid its transgression.
The Chinuch, however, understands לפני
עור to be its own Issur, which, like almost all other Issurim, is subject to the usual rules of יעבור ואל יהרג . Hence, he would maintain that one need not give up his own life in such a situation.
Another ramification of this Machlokes would be whether an Ashkenazi may offer a Sefardi something that is permitted to Ashkenazim and not to Sefardim. For example, if a Jew ignited the fire of a stove upon which a non-Jew subsequently cooked food, the Halachic status of that food is subject to a dispute between the Mechaber and Rema (Y.D. 113:7). The Mechaber rules that the food is considered Bishul Akum and may not be consumed, while the Rema maintains that the Jew’s kindling of the fire is sufficient to permit the food. Sefardim, following the Mechaber’s Psak, may not eat the food, while Ashkenazim, who follow the Rema, may eat it.
May an Ashkenazi proffer this food to a Sefardi? In light of the aforementioned Machlokes between the Chinuch and the Ritva, the answer may depend. According to the Chinuch, לפני עור is its own לאו and forbids causing any עור to violate an Issur, regardless of whether the provider is subject to that particular Issur. However, according to the Ritva, לפני עור is a “subcategory” of the actual Issur, and perhaps applies only when relevant to both provider and recipient.