Friday, April 19, 2013

RABBI MEIR KAHANE: Parashat Kedoshim - Forbidden conjugal relations

“Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for holy am I, Hashem, your G-d.” (Lev. 19:2) “ You shall sanctify yourselves and you will be holy, for I am Hashem, your G-d.” (Lev. 20:7)

Twice G-d decreed kedusha (holiness) upon Israel. Why? It is “since I am holy.” In other words, just as G-d is holy, so, too, must we be holy. Our sages made this point in Tanchuma (Kedoshim, 5): “Make yourselves holy”: Why must we do so? G-d caused us to cling to His loins, as it says, “For as the belt clings to the loins of a man” (Jer. 13:11). Therefore, “You must be holy, since I am the L-rd your G-d, and I am holy” (Lev. 19:2). We also learn (Torat Kohanim, Shemini, 12), “Just as I am holy, so are you holy. Just as I am set apart, so you must be set apart.” Here, we find kedusha defined: It means separating oneself from the abominations, impurity and bestiality of the world, and instead clinging to purity and spiritual loftiness, goodness and the yoke of Heaven, intent on ascending and becoming holier. The beast is a prisoner of physical drives and lust. It cannot possibly separate itself from bestiality, for it is entirely bestial and was created to be precisely that in order to show man the behavior from which he must flee.

Breaking down one's passions is Israel's task. That is why kedusha was commanded so many times in the realms of life fraught with lust and desire, namely food and conjugal relations. Regarding conjugal relations, G-d stressed our duty to be holy, when just before the section on sexual sin He said, “You must sanctify yourselves and be holy” (Lev. 20:7). Even though this verse is teaching about separation from idolatry (Torat Kohanim, Kedoshim 10), it still relates to the section that follows as well, that of sexual sin. Thus, our sages expounded (Vayikra Rabbah, 24:6): Why was the section on sexual sin placed right after the section on kedusha? To teach that wherever we find separation from sexual sin, there we find kedusha. This follows the utterance of R.Yehuda ben Pazi who said, “Whoever fences himself off from sexual sin is called kadosh, 'holy'.”

Following is Rambam at the end of Hilchot Issurei Biah (22:18-20): No prohibition throughout the Torah is as hard for most of the people to part with as are sexual immorality and fornication. Our sages say that at the moment that Israel were commanded regarding sexual morality, they wept and they accepted this mitzvah with resentment and weeping, as it says, “[Moses heard the people] weeping over their families (Num. 11:10), i.e. regarding family-related matters. Our sages said that a person's soul lusts and craves theft and sexual sin, and we do not find a community in any age that lacks people who breach the laws of sexual morality and forbidden cohabitation. Our sages further said, “Most succumb to theft, a minority succumb to sexual sin, and all use speech that verges on forbidden gossip.” Therefore, it is appropriate for one to suppress his evil impulse in this matter and to accustom himself to exceeding kedusha, pure thought and an appropriate outlook in order to be saved from them.
[In modern times,] the clearest and most painful example of the agonizing contradiction between liberal-democratic-western thinking and Judaism, the one that has led to the most violent and hideous hate and wildly irrational defamation, is surely the clear and ringing Jewish ban on intermarriage and sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews, a thing that has become the centerpiece of the hysterical attack by the Hellenist Jews on “Kahanism”. There is no doubt that certain marriages are forbidden, such as Jew to non-Jew, incestuous unions, kohen to divorcee, mamzer to non-mamzer. We shall not play games. These are forbidden marriages and no rabbi will perform them. And so there is a cry: Civil marriage! Or a more elegant one: Civil marriage for those who are barred from religious marriage. I shall add only a word or two here about those whose real aim is not civil marriage but also civil divorce, something that would increase the number of mamzerim disastrously. Civil marriage is but a first step leading to civil divorce, which will truly split the nation into two camps, with one refusing to marry into the other. If this is what we truly want it is ours for the asking. But for those who are sincerely troubled by the refusal on the part of the rabbinate to marry certain couples, let us examine those disabled couples. It is true that under no circumstances whatever does halacha recognize an incestuous marriage, and there may indeed be some who will insist that a civil law should be created to allow marriage between mother and son or brother and sister on the grounds that the law should not limit any conduct so long as that conduct does not harm others. It may be true that there will be those who will – as in certain western countries – insist on recognizing the marriage of two homosexual males or females. For these, halacha has no answer; its ban is clear and absolute and one hopes that the proponents of civil marriage in these cases will be accorded the contempt they deserve. Then there is the question of intermarriage. True, there is absolutely no sanction, a priori or a posteriori, for intermarriage under halacha. A Jew is forbidden to marry a non-Jew; his marriage will not be performed by a rabbi [the violation of halacha by reform clergy is irrelevant, this goes for all other forbidden marriages as well]; it will not be recognized under any circumstances. There are, indeed, more than a few among the nihilists in our ranks who oppose this. They would open the doors to the disaster that Jews fought so successfully through two millenia of Exile and to which they succumb so disastrously in the “free” western world. The destruction of the Jew can be accomplished in the furnaces of Auschwitz; it can also come about through intermarriage that destroys the Jewish identity of the couple and its offspring.
But there are other bans. Consider the ban on marriage between kohen and divorcee or mamzer and non-mamzer or a number of other bans mentioned in the Torah. The rabbinate will refuse tor marry these. Is it the not “fair” to allow them to utilize civil marriage? Before replying, let us understand something that is basic to Judaism. What is “right” and what is not “right” for the Jew has never been a subjective thing, to be judged by man on the basis of his own cultural imperative. It has certainly never been something to be measured by transient, temporary standards. The Jews are an eternal people with eternal values, and eternity is not subject to the passing modes and fashions of ideology. The Jews are a divine people with divine values, and these infinite truths are not to be passed upon or rejected by finite and human animals.

The greatness and sole strength of halacha lies in its divinity, otherwise why cling to it? And that strength is decimated and the pillar upon which it stands is eliminated when it must give way before a generation that cries “unfair”. What law is “fair” to all people and what society does not demand a few sacrifice so that society may continue to exist? And one day, the one who was touched by “unfairness” will understand that it was not really so. It is not by the standards of finite “fairness” that the Jewish people and halacha abide. Let the law pierce the mountain, but the law must prevail. Or we, as a people, will not prevail. But there is more. Those who cry for civil marriage say that this is the only solution. Is that really true? Is it a solution? And if that solution is considered a solution, then is there not a far better way, one that does not question the absolute supremacy and authority of halacha? What will happen, if a civil marriage law is passed in Israel? Will the rabbinate recognize it? Will the religious community recognize it? The answer is negative in both cases. But that does not matter, is the retort. We are not interested in whether the rabbinate or the religious Jew recognizes it. We want it to be recognized officially by the state. So, this is what apparently really troubles the proponents of civil marriage. That under present law, the state will not marry one non-halachically. Is this the problem? For this, there is no need for civil marriage; to solve this problem, there is no need at all to introduce the non-Jewish concept of civil marriage, a thing that threatens to be only the first step toward civil divorce that would catastrophically divide the nation. Halacha itself gives a way out. For while, a priori, no rabbi will perform a marriage banned by halacha, all marriages that are forbidden marriages - except those involving gentiles and incest – are recognized as marriages by the Torah a posteriori even though the couples disobeyed the injunction against them. Let us consider the case of a kohen and a divorcee or a mamzer and a non-mamzer. Faced with the refusal of a rabbi to marry them what would happen if, in the presence of two proper witnesses, the man betrothed the woman unto him? Such a marriage is a binding one, calling for a divorce to dissolve it, and although the two have sinned and disobeyed the Torah, the marriage is valid. Certainly the religious stigma remains, but would that stigma be any less under civil marriage? And in any case, do the opponents of halacha really care? Assuming that they are sincere in their avowals that their sole purpose is to allow the couple to be married and have their marriage recognized by the state, there is no need to introduce civil marriage. The state can insist that the marriage be recorded as a legal one, reading “married – in a priori violation of Torah law”. The additional wording should in no way bother those who are not interested in Torah law and who have achieved all that they say they wanted – a recognized state marriage.

To say that there are no problems that halacha cannot solve to the satisfaction of the secular public would be to lie. But halacha, unlike politicians, did not come into being to cater to the public but rather to raise it, uplift it, and sanctify it. At the same time, however, let us never forget that we came here to the Land of Israel to build a Jewish, not a western country. It is Jewish values that are true, not western values (or eastern, for that matter). What is right and true is not to be determined by liberalism or democracy or progressive circles. For the inhabitants of the land who are before you committed all these abominations, and the land became contaminated. Let not the land vomit you out for having contaminated it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. (Lev. 18:27-28)

Compiled from “The Jewish Idea”, "Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews" and "Our Challenge" of Rabbi Meir Kahane, HY”D

Friday, April 12, 2013

Insights from Rabbi Meir Kahane's 'Peirush HaMaccabee': Parashat Metzora

The Kohen shall command; and for the person being purified there shall be taken two live, clean birds; cedar wood, crimson thread, and hyssop. (Lev. 14:4)

The Kohen has to take two birds, and slaughter one of them such that its blood drips into an earthenware vessel with flowing water, and dip cedar-wood, hyssop, crimson thread, and the other bird into the flowing water which is mixed with the blood of the slaughtered bird. He then sprinkles this over the metzora (“leper”) or the house seven times, after which the live bird is set free. Now the whole subject of the metzora carries tremendous morals: the Talmud says: These afflictions come because of seven things: lashon ha-ra’, blood-shed, swearing false oaths, sexual immorality, arrogance, robbery, and stinginess (Arakhin 16a).

A person who sinned by committing robbery and being stingy is condemned to sitting alone outside of the camp, thereby losing money because he is unable to work; and sometimes, his house becomes afflicted and has to be destroyed. And if he shed blood, he is reminded of this sin by having the bird’s blood sprinkled over him; he is afflicted with bodily suffering as a punishment for having afflicted bodily suffering on someone else. As a punishment for pursuing sexual immorality he becomes physically repulsive, such that no woman will want him. As a punishment for having spoken lashon ha-ra’ and thereby causing division among people, he is now divided from everyone else and dwells alone.

It goes further: he guarded his tongue neither from lashon ha-ra’ nor from swearing falsely; so the Talmud says, What makes the metzora unique, that the Torah commands him to bring two birds to purify himself? – G-d said: His actions were the actions of a chatterer, therefore the Torah enjoins him to bring [birds which are] chatterers as a sacrifice (Arakhin 16b). And for his sin of arrogance he brings the wood of the cedar tree, one of the tallest and proudest of all trees, together with hyssop, one the smallest of all plants, on which the Midrash explains: Why is the metzora cleansed with the tallest of the tall and the lowliest of the lowly?... – Because he is afflicted with tzara’at for having aggrandised himself like a cedar tree; so when he humbles himself like a hyssop, he is cured (Pesikta Rabbati, Parah 14, 60b). The sinner thereby purifies his sin which was as red as the crimson thread and makes it as white as snow. It seems to me that his arrogance is the source of all his sins, and all the other sins are a result of it, as I shall show immediately.

These two birds represent important concepts. The Torah commands him to bring two birds, live and pure (Leviticus 14:4), which the Midrash expounds upon: Rabbi Yosé the Galilean says: Specifically a bird which lives outside of town. And which bird is this? – A swallow (Sifra, Metzora 5:14). And the Sifra further says: The birds must be live, and not slaughtered; pure, and neither impure…nor non-kosher (ibid. 1:12). The swallow, whose Hebrew name is צִפּוֹר הַדְּרוֹר, tzippor ha-dror (literally “bird of freedom”) which must be a clean fowl, serves to symbolise the person: every person is born pure, clean of all sin, unblemished; like the swallow, the tzippor ha-dror, the bird of freedom, free to go in any direction he desires, free to choose good or evil. If he does good, he will live and receive his just reward; and if he does evil, he will be punished. And the way to achieve the good is through humility and modesty, whereas arrogance and callousness lead to denying G-d and shaking off His yoke. And this being the case, it is good for a person to be modest and humble and quiet, not to raise his voice and his head – because what is he? – Dust and ashes, decay and maggots! And what are we?! (Exodus 16:7). G-d will punish anyone who transgresses His commandments, thereby transforming his pure and beautiful and wondrous soul into something ugly. And since it is impossible to see the ugliness of a soul, G-d afflicts him with tzara’at, making him physically ugly for all to see, symbolising the ugliness of his soul (and sometimes, G-d afflicts only his garments or his house, for him to see his soul reflected therein). And he – this man who wanted to aggrandise himself above all others – is then forced to humble himself, to dwell in solitude, this man – who wanted only bodily pleasures – suffers bodily afflictions. Thus he takes two birds; one of them he slaughters, and the other one he sets free. Two birds, symbolising his free choice – good or evil.

The Abravanel comments there: The purpose here is to indicate that both the birds were previously alive – and at G-d’s command and word one of them died. Such it is with humans: one can fall sick and die, while another one remains alive. Everything depends upon G-d’s decree. And this is why He commanded [the Kohen] to slaughter the bird into earthenware vessels, alluding to the human who is as an earthenware vessel, fashioned by the hands of the Potter, blessed be He… And the bird is slaughtered over flowing water in the vessel to symbolise the Torah…because the bird who was slaughtered died because of the Torah which was not kept properly… And the Torah says that in the end “he shall send out the live bird free over the field” (Leviticus 14:7) – that is to say, to roam free in its natural habitat – symbolising that the purified person returns to the camp, there to roam free as and when he pleases, no longer to be confined. And I would add to this final detail that what this means is that he is hereby given a new opportunity for free will – if he will only learn his lesson.

Source: "Peirush HaMaccabee" on Shemot, Chapter 2, English translation by Daniel Pinner


RABBI MEIR KAHANE: Parashat Tazria/Metzora – Blemish and Perfection

“On the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” (Lev. 12:3)

G-d bound the Land to the great mitzvah of milah (circumcision) by an everlasting covenant and equated milah, a mitzvah carried out right on the body, with Eretz Yisrael, which a Jew must be right inside: “I will sustain My covenant between Me and between you and your descendants after you throughout their generations, an eternal covenant. I will be a G-d to you and to your offspring after you. To you and your offspring I will give the land where you are now living as a foreigner. The whole Land of Canaan shall be your eternal heritage, and I will be a G-d to your descendants.” G-d then said to Abraham, “As far as you are concerned, you must keep My covenant – you and your offspring throughout their generations. This is My covenant between Me, and between you and your offspring, that you must keep. You must circumcise every male.” (Gen. 17:7-10)

Following is Bereshit Rabbah, 46:9: R. Yuden says, There are five [conditions here]: If your offspring receive My Divinity, I shall be your G-d and patron, and if not, I will not be your G-d and patron. If they enter the Land they shall receive My Divinity, and if not, they shall not receive My Divinity. If they perform milah, they shall enter the Land... If they accept the Shabbat, they shall enter the Land... Here, G-d decreed the connection between the Land and mitzvot. Only if Israel enter the Land do they receive G-d as their L-rd and Master. Outside the Land, they live under the nations and their harmful cultural influence. This involves Chilul Hashem, because when we live among the nations, under their rule, the nations' gods and culture enjoy superiority. Moreover, the Torah is adulterated by alien, non-Jewish ideas. G-d's becoming Israel's Master is also conditional on their accepting milah, a fundamental mitzvah, whose linkage to a Jew's actual body makes it an inseparable part of him. As our sages said of King David (Menachot 43b): Israel are beloved in that G-d surrounded them with mitzvot: tefillin on their heads and arms, tzitzit on their garments and mezuzot on their doors... When King David entered the bath house and saw himself standing naked, he said, “Woe to me that I stand naked without mitzvot.” Once he recalled the milah on his flesh, he calmed down. G-d wished the Jew to be surrounded with mitzvot every single moment of his life, so that he would always be holy and complete. He, therefore, established a mitzvah for his body to be an essential part of the person himself. That way, he would always be accompanied by a mitzvah. Likewise, G-d wished Israel to dwell always within a mitzvah. He, therefore, established the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael. Thus, G-d tied the mitzvah of milah to Eretz Yisrael, and together, they were the first brit, or covenant, that G-d forged between Himself and Abraham, father of the nation.

G-d feared leaving the Jew free of mitzvot even a single moment. Not only would that leave him without holiness, but he would be exposed to the influence of the nations and the alien culture. G-d, therefore, affixed milah upon the Jew's flesh so that he would always be accompanied by a mitzvah. Milah is a mitzvah which enters a Jew's body, and Eretz Yisrael is a mitzvah into which a Jew enters. Why were both necessary? So that Israel would always be set apart from the nations, and so they would thereby safeguard their holiness completely and properly. For that reason, Israel could not enter the Land until they were circumcised, because milah and Eretz Yisrael are linked to each other through their keeping the Jew separate.

G-d ordained that Jews must perform circumcision, and in practice there are two types, one applying to the foreskin, the other to the heart. Of the first it says, “Ye shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin” (Gen. 17:11), and of the second, “Circumcise the foreskin of your heart” (Deut. 10:16). Circumcision serves to soften man's pride, his physical and psychological strength, the arrogance of, “My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth” (Deut. 8:17). Circumcision serves to complete the Jew. As long as he is uncircumcised, he is flawed, as though missing part of his body. This holds a great moral lesson. When a Jew gives up something of himself, that is precisely when he becomes perfect and complete. Before Abraham's circumcision, G-d said to him, “Walk before Me and you shall be perfect” (Gen. 17:1). Our sages comment (Nedarim 31b), “Great is circumcision, for with all the mitzvot Abraham performed, he was not called 'perfect' until he was circumcised.” Rashi comments, “As long as your foreskin is in place, you are flawed.” And Nedarim 31b further teaches, “Great is circumcision, for if not for it, G-d would not have created the world: “Thus says the L-rd: 'If not for My covenant [brit] day and night, I would not have set Heaven and Earth in motion' (Jeremiah 33:25)”. The reason circumcision is related to in this way is clear. It is G-d's mark that man has subjugated his body and his energies to Him. It is also clear that everything said regarding circumcision of the foreskin applies to circumcision of the heart. Both act to weaken man's arrogance and lust, suppress his passions and subjugate him to the service of G-d.

We are commanded to circumcise the hard shell that prevents man from feeling mercy, kindness and justice, for only these can bring him to humility, refinement and accepting G-d's yoke. This idea is alluded to by, “The L-rd has sought Him a man after His own heart” (I Samuel 13:14), i.e. a man with a heart like G-d's. The person who denies G-d's nature and decrees and rejects the yoke of Heaven will say, “It is my own life and my own body.” This fool does not understand that every sin he commits corrupts his soul and will ultimately lead him to hurt others through his false views. Through worshiping himself and pampering his physical cravings and desires, he will necessarily arrive at a situation in which his selfishness and arrogance dominate him, until he is enslaved to his body and his lusts. [For him, this week's Parasha points out that asides from the mitzvah of circumcision, applying to heart and foreskin, there is also another way to achieve the humbling of the heart: suffering of the body, as seen in the example of the leper].

Solomon said: Why is this leper purified by the highest of the high and the lowest of the low – by cedar wood and hyssop? To teach that if a person elevates himself like a cedar tree, he is stricken with leprosy; and when he humbles himself like hyssop, he is healed by hyssop (Yalkut Shimoni, Vayikra 559). Whoever suffers learns how weak and lowly he is. His arrogance and selfishness are erased, because he must lift his eyes to Heaven for salvation. Achieving humility and ridding oneself of evil conceit are one's very mission on this earth, and by such means one is spiritually magnified and exalted. Moreover, only through one's own suffering can one understand the suffering of others and learn empathy for the sick and the needy. The more severe and painful a person's suffering, the more his own arrogance is broken down. G-d decreed that Moses must take blood from the milu'im ram and place it on the right ear lobes, right thumbs and right big toes of Aaron and his sons [during their inauguration for service in the Tabernacle]. HaMidrash HaGadol (Lev. 8:24) asks, “Did Aaron and his sons need blood on their thumbs and toes? Rather it was done to teach them how to purify lepers.” The leper, as well, had blood placed on these same spots. Yet, why precisely here during the milu'im did G-d establish this lesson? The answer is that, also regarding the leper, we find the importance of lowliness, which is a condition for trusting in G-d. After all, leprosy struck in response to ten sins (Vayikra Rabbah 17:3), or eleven (Bamidbar Rabbah 7:5), and among them were arrogance and Chilul Hashem. Because Aaron was not humble enough to act with complete trust in G-d and self-sacrifice, and to blot out the Chilul Hashem [regarding the sin of the golden calf], G-d rendered him as if smitten with leprosy for his arrogance and the Chilul Hashem. I said previously that the world's having been created in Hebrew (Bereishit Rabbah 31:8) means that Hebrew did not emerge by itself via a historic process like other languages. Rather, it was “ready-made”, “created” by G-d alone. Thus, every word holds secrets and allusions, and Hebrew words are tied to one another by moral themes. Take note that mum (hebr.: blemish), and tamim (hebr.: perfect) come from the same root. Even so, they are opposites, as is G-d's way with the Hebrew language. This teaches that whoever is imperfect, spiritually blemished, will be smitten with a physical blemish. In this regard, G-d hinted to Aaron: because you were not perfect, you need the milu'im. Moreover, you must conduct yourself like the leper who has been smitten physically for not behaving with spiritual perfection. Mum and tamim are separated only by sin. In circumcision, mum becomes tamim through the removal of the foreskin.

Israel, by circumcising themselves physically and spiritually, will merit to destroy the nations. Yalkut Shimoni (Tehillim 875, on Ps. 118:10-12) comments, “Three times it says 'they swarm around me', corresponding to the three times Gog and Magog are destined to attack Jerusalem.” Three times Gog and his men will attack Jerusalem, yet all three times, “I shall destroy them [“amilam” – hinting at milah, circumcision].” This will happen by virtue of our circumcising body and heart.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

BENADOR: Holocaust: Jews are no victims


Between today and tomorrow, throughout the world takes place the Yom Hashoah Holocaust Remembrance Day.

And the world will remember Jews as victims. 

However, on this day, it is my pray to G-d that true Jews may reinforce their faith, their Emunah in G-d.  

May all of us Jews, who feel Jews to the last drop of our blood and the tiniest bone of our bodies, with our soul which belongs to Him, be one with G-d, and grow more and better in His Love and in His Light. 

As G-d's Chosen Children, we must follow His Law, the Law of the Torah.  

As G-d's Chosen Children, if we are with Him, we can never be victims.  

We may die defending His Word and His Teachings, but as History shows, our enemies come and go.  We remain. 

So, on this Holocaust remembrance day, I pray Jews see all the miracles that He Gives us day after day and that we so take for granted. 

Only then, we can face, inspired by the Divine Strength and Fortitude received from Him, and be victorious over our enemies.

A necessary victory for us, G-d's Children, and for the world -for which our role is Tikkun Olam, help transform the world for the better. 

King David said in Psalm 97 "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart."

G-d bless 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Parashat Shemini – The Meaning of Life – Rabbi Meir Kahane

The sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, each took his fire pan, they put fire in them and placed incense upon it; and they brought before Hashem an alien fire that He had not commanded them. A fire came forth from before Hashem and consumed them, and they died before Hashem. (Lev. 10:1-2)
Dear friend, open your mouth wide and I will fill it with a major, albeit harsh, principle from the Torah of life: Since life on this earth is only a vestibule for the banquet hall which is the World-to-Come, only an instrument of G-d whose purpose is to bring man and the world to holiness and the yoke of G-d's kingdom, and since true life occurs only in the World-to-Come, the world of truth, it follows that in order to attain this goal and teach people fundamental lessons, G-d sometimes shortens peoples' lives.

Sometimes, those who pass away are righteous, innocent persons, even children and infants, and the fools and the “dead” who move around among us see in it only cruelty, or even lack of logic, direction and Divine conduct in the world. Life was given to man as a loan, a loan that he must pay off when the time comes, and that he is not entitled to refuse. As our sages said (Avot, end of Ch. 4): Perforce you were formed and perforce you were born; perforce you live, perforce you shall die, and perforce you have to give a strict account before the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He. The two sons of R. Meir and his wife Beruriah died. Our sages describe how Beruriah acted before revealing the tragedy to her husband (Yalkut Shimoni, Mishlei 964): Beruriah set food before R. Meir. After he had eaten she said, “Master, I have a question to ask. Someone previously gave me a deposit to take care of for him. Now he has come to reclaim it. Should I return it or not?” R. Meir replied, “Daughter, if someone has a deposit, is he not obligated to return it to its owner?” She then said, “I would not return it without your knowledge.” Taking his hand, she brought him up to the bedroom. She pulled back the bed sheets and he saw his two sons lying there deceased. He began to cry and said, “My sons, my sons! My teachers, my teachers! My sons in proper behavior. My teachers in that they would enlighten me with their Torah.” At that moment she said, “Master, did you not tell me that we must return a deposit to its owner? 'The L-rd gave and the L-rd has taken away. Blessed be the name of the L-rd' (Job 1:21).”

Life is nothing but a deposit from G-d. It is decreed that one should live a specific length of time, and during that time he should fulfill the mission incumbent on him. Like anyone guarding a deposit, a person must guard his life, neither damaging nor making improper use of it. When the time comes, he must return it to its owner. Man's life on earth is exceedingly short; it passes in the blink of an eye. On the one hand, it is qualitatively of enormous importance, for only through it can a person fulfill the duty for which he was created. On the other hand, however, how brief and transient life is! It is compared to “the potsherd that breaks, the grass that withers, the flower that fades, the shadow that passes, the cloud that vanishes, the breeze that blows, the dust that floats, the dream that flies away” (U'Netaneh Tokef). Our true, eternal existence is in the World-to-Come, not here on earth. As our sages said (Avot 4:16), “This world is like a vestibule before the World-to-Come. Prepare yourself in the vestibule so that you may enter the banquet hall.” This carries both encouragement and a warning, and we must assimilate the whole message with pure acceptance of the yoke of Heaven. A person must understand his mission on earth and the idea that life was given only to fulfill that mission. He must understand how brief and transient life is and how much emptiness pervades it. Once he understands these things, he will recognize that he need not fear either the day or moment of death as long as he pursues life by accepting the yoke of Heaven and being constantly ready to sanctify G-d's name through self-sacrifice. If someone has attained immortality by doing G-d's will, what does he lose if he suddenly leaves this world? One should not delude oneself into viewing longevity as an end in itself. The main thing is life's quality: how a person lives. Does he attain true life as defined by G-d? When a person exists on this earth without accepting the yoke of Heaven and without readiness to sacrifice his life to sanctify G-d's name, that is not “life” at all, but a bestial existence.

By contrast, if someone's life was cut off in its prime through his sacrificing himself, that person was alive before, he is still alive now, and he will remain alive forever in the World-to-Come. The wise person who understands G-d's ways and Torah will thus never fear. He will always be ready to sacrifice his life to sanctify G-d's name, and precisely in this way, to continue living. When G-d wishes to demonstrate how great, awesome and just He is, He shows no favoritism even to the righteous. He killed the two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, who were righteous (and not only did He kill them, but He took their souls on the most joyous and holy day, that of the Tabernacle's dedication). What great suffering was caused to Aaron, their father, and Elisheva, their mother! Dear reader, let us consider our grave duty to fear G-d. As explained above, G-d will sometimes take a person before his time to teach a profound idea that will sanctify His name. G-d's doing so involves no cruelty whatsoever. On the one hand, life on this earth is short and fleeting. It is not eternal. If someone dies young, as much as a tragedy it is for his relatives and friends, he is really only leaving this earth a few years before he would have anyway. On the other hand, someone whom G-d kills to teach that person's nation and contemporaries and the world a Divine lesson that will sanctify G-d's name, thereby ascends to greatness. Our sages said (Vayikra Rabbah 2:1), “Ten things are called precious... From whence do we know that the death of the saintly is among them? It says, 'Precious in the sight of the L-rd is the death of His saints' (Ps. 116:5).” Thus, those saints who die to sanctify G-d's name are precious, and their death is precious.

G-d suffered greatly for having killed Nadab and Abihu, who were righteous. As our sages said (Bamidbar Rabbah 2:23): “Nadab and Abihu died before the L-rd” (Num. 3:4): The Torah's mentioning their death in several places teaches that G-d was sorrowful because Aaron's sons were dear to Him. Likewise it says, “I will be sanctified through those close to Me (Lev. 10:3). Vayikra Rabbah (20:10) says, “The death of Nadab and Abihu was twice as hard on G-d as it was on their father.” R. Eliezer HaModai says (Sifri, Pinchas 137): Consider how dear the righteous are before G-d. Wherever it mentions their death it mentions the sin that led to it as well. Why does it go to such lengths? To avoid giving mankind the pretext to say that righteous men died because they had acted corruptly in secret. Thus, in four places it mentions the death of Aaron's sons, and in each it mentions their sin to make known that they had no sin but this. One should be aware that in all four places where G-d mentions Nadab and Abihu's sin, He points to the strange fire that they brought in the Holy of Holies. This was their sin, as noted in previous sources. When they saw the fire descend, they became excited and followed their own Halachah that it was a mitzvah to bring regular fire as well. They wished to stress the connection between G-d's holiness and that of man. At the root of all this was their desire to enter the Holy of Holies, to commune there with G-d, and to offer an incense that would be accepted.Although Nadab and Abihu were righteous and wished to come close to G-d, the outcome of their deed was the diminishing of G-d's glory and of Israel's reverence for Him. Hence G-d made Nadab and Abihu an eternal example, an everlasting reminder of the crucial principle that we must demonstrate fear of G-d through reverence for the Temple: This is what G-d meant when He said, 'I will be sanctified through those close to Me, and thus glorified before all the people.' Aaron remained silent (Lev. 10:3).

Besides the general reverence all are obligated to feel, there are concrete limitations on a persons' entering the Temple, depending on who he is. If he is and Israelite, his being pure or impure has a bearing, as does the type of impurity, itself. If he is and ordinary Kohen, his being physically blemished, not cutting his hair or wearing torn clothes has a bearing. If he is the Kohen Gadol, he faces other limitations when he enters the Holy of Holies once each year. Although the reason for these limitations is the levels of holiness within these boundaries, entering in opposition to that holiness indicates a lack of fear of G-d, the levels of holiness having been fixed chiefly so man would experience that fear. What emerges from all this is that G-d gave us life to perform a specific task, and created man to fulfill that task and bring the world holiness, purity, humility, fear of Heaven and acceptance of G-d's yoke. This being the case, when the times demand it, G-d might also remove someone from this earth to teach a specific idea. We need not mourn such a person. Rather we must stand silently as did Aaron and accept sentence. We must transcend our natural sorrow and be joyful about this exalted soul. G-d's holy ones are likewise adored and lauded through this, for by their early deaths they complete their role on this wretched earth in holiness and acceptance of the yoke of Heaven, and there is nothing greater than that. No exit from this earth could be more exalted.