Acharei: What’s Between the Lines?

A

The Talmud records a bizarre argument between the High Priest and the Chief Rabbis. For generations, readers have been puzzled: Is that behavior befitting the most distinguished members of the Jewish people? In 1986, the Rebbe explained it's deeper meaning.

Lesson Contents:

A. The Post Yom Kippur Feud

This week’s Torah portion describes the service of the High Priest on Yom Kippur (Source 1). The Mishnah tells us that the High Priest would hold a feast following the holy day, to celebrate his safe exit from the Holy of Holies (Source 2). Ancient sources describe an elaborate parade that will be held in his honor (Source).

On one such occasion, the Talmud relates, as the High Priest was being ceremoniously escorted home, the crowds suddenly abandoned him to escort the great sages, Shmaya and Avtalyon. According to the story, the High Priest was offended, and a verbal exchange took place between the men.

The Rebbe asks: if the High Priest exited the Holy of Holies is safely, he must have been a holy man (see Source 4). Was he really so petty, as the Talmud seems to indicate?

B. Prayer vs. Torah Study

The answer: This was not a petty argument, but a disagreement regarding the values of prayer vs. Torah study (see Source 5). The High Priest, who earns his position by virtue of his pedigree, focused on prayer (in which we focus on our familial connection to G-d). The sages, who were descendants of converts, focused on Torah study. Hence the discussion.

C. The Nature of Prayer

What exactly is the fundamental difference between prayer and Torah study? How do they differ in the manner they bring us close to G-d?
In a special discourse of the Previous Rebbe, he defines it in clear, simple terms.

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