The restrictions Yom Kippur places on each Jew are unique among the Torah’s holidays. Likewise, the intricate and detailed Temple service that was performed on Yom Kippur is unique among the services Israel performed for Hashem. As Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, teaches, this unique day was in certain ways a microcosm for every Jew’s connection to Hashem.
Also in this parshah: a lesson in “purity of purpose” from the prohibition against eating blood.
“And no man shall be in the ohel moed when he comes to atone in the sanctuary until he goes out” (16:17).
The reason for this injunction certainly includes the purpose of isolation. The awareness of Hashem is encouraged by solitude, because the company of man causes the mind to be diverted and gives solace and support, which prevent fear of Hashem. Therefore the kohen gadol is required to enter alone, without the company of any man even in the outer chamber. Thereby his thoughts are concentrated solely upon his G-d.
The kohen gadol went into isolation seven days before Yom Kippur (Yoma 2a) which was ”an isolation for holiness” (ibid. 8b) “so that the fear [of Hashem] should come upon him by his separation from men” (RashiI ibid). ln reality, every person is alone in the world with Hashem (Chovos Halovovos, Cheshbon Hanefesh 3) and he has no real connection with anyone else. The kohen gadol, when he comes alone before Hashem on Yom Kippur, symbolizes the state of every man, who is alone with Hashem despite his kin and associates, none of whom is capable of helping or harming him.
On Yom Kippur the kohen gadol experiences the emotions and thoughts that serve as models for the emotions and thoughts of all men at all times. “The lack of fear of Hashem in one’s mind when he is together with men and he speaks with them” (Chovos Halovovos, Cheshbon Hanefesh, 17th Cheshbon) is a constant ordeal, and therefore ”Solitude and isolation from men… is the most effective cause of good qualities” (ibid).
Every kohen gadol experienced great fear when he entered alone into the Sanctuary, and when he came out alive he celebrated at a feast with his fellow men (Yoma 70a). But this great fear of Hashem was actually one of the chief elements of the atonement; and therefore no man could be in the Ohel Moed to assuage this fear.
“And I shall set my face against the soul that eats the blood” (17:10). Just as the eating of blood deserves especial retribution, the refraining from eating blood deserves a special reward: “You shall not eat it, in order that it should be good for you and your sons after you” (Devarim 12:25).
One reason for the special punishment for the sin of eating blood is the fact that blood is extremely disgusting, and the eating cannot be excused on the grounds of yielding to appetite or desire. Therefore the eater of blood is guilty of an intention to rebel (l’hach’is), and is totally inexcusable.
But if so, what special virtue is demonstrated by refraining from eating blood that it should deserve a special blessing for that person and for his progeny (“that it should be good for you and your sons”)? The answer is that this reward is promised solely to one who refrains from blood because of Hashem’s command. To have such purity of purpose is especially difficult with regard to something one naturally would find abhorrent and from which one would abstain on aesthetic grounds. “Blood, which a man abhors, if refrained from [for the sake of Heaven] causes him to receive reward” (Makos 23b).
Thus, two lessons are taught. Any sin that is easier to avoid deserves a greater punishment if committed because of the ease by which it could have been avoided. And when a deed we would avoid because it is nauseating is prohibited by Hashem, and we add this intention of obeying Hashem to our natural abhorrence, we gain considerable merit.
Therefore the man who gains an attitude of loyalty to Hashem’s command against eating blood — even though he would never entertain the thought of committing such a disgusting act — is rewarded for himself and for his posterity by the effort of virtue he has added to his natural abhorrence, and he gains a blessing for him and his sons.
Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.
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