Acharei Mot-Kedoshim: Why Did They Cry?

April 14, 2021

In the Second Temple era, tensions between the Sadducees and the Pharisees would come to a head when the leading rabbis would coach the High Priest for his worship on Yom Kippur. They would all leave in tears. What exactly was going on?

This week’s lesson is in honor of Rabbi Sholom Ber & Chaya Mushka Shuchat and their children, Brocho Lifsha, Aliza & Shaindel.

Part 1: The Yom Kippur Tradition 

As we read in this week’s Torah portion, a special Yom Kippur incense would be brought by the High Priest into the Holy of Holies (source 1). Maimonides explains that this service became complicated with the rise of the Sadducees, who rejected the oral tradition. The rabbis were forced to make the High Priest swear to carry out the service exactly as they dictated (source 2).

The Rebbe cites Maimonides and draws attention to his final statement, that all parties would leave the meeting in tears. Why were they all so emotional?

Part 2: The Innocent Suspect

The Talmud says that you will never be suspected of something to which you have no connection at all (source 3). Additionally, we read in the Midrash that the ketoret was a profoundly important and vital service (source 4). In source 5, after the Sicha, we read a story about the conflict ‘in real time.’

Thus, the Rebbe explains: The High Priest was pained by the fact that he was suspect of perverting the holy service. But the elders—who administered the oath not only upon their own decision but upon Torah’s dictates—did not lose their sensitivities either and were pained by the exchange as well.

Part 3: How to Treat Your Fellow

The Rebbe takes this as a lesson about Ahavat Yisrael: Sometimes you are in a situation where someone else might be hurt, even if inadvertently. Don’t pass over the incident; the command of Ahavat Yisrael tells us to pay careful attention to every person’s dignity.



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