The Joy of Joining With Others

B’zos yavo Aharon el HaKodesh (Vayikra 16:3)

Parashas Acharei Mos begins with the special Avodah that was performed by the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur to effect atonement for himself, his fellow Kohanim, and the entire nation. Because we are unable to perform the Yom Kippur Avodah today in the absence of the Beis Hamikdash, we instead recite passages that describe it during the chazzan’s repetition of the Mussaf prayers, in accordance with the concept (Hoshea 14:3) that verbally recounting the sacrificial offerings takes the place of actually bringing them.

However, in the Avodah section of the Mussaf prayers, there is one word that seems out of place. According to Nusach Sephard, we say “Sas v’ira dam hapar l’toch hamazrek she’bo dam hasa’ir” — the Kohen Gadol rejoiced as he poured the blood of the bull into the bowl that contained the blood of the goat, where he mixed them together prior to sprinkling the combination on the corners of the Golden Altar.

Although this was indeed an essential component of receiving the atonement of Yom Kippur (see Rashi, Vayikra 16:18), it is difficult to understand why we refer to the Kohen Gadon as sas — rejoicing — as he mixed the blood. Why did this particular element of the Avodah specifically engender happiness?

Harav Yissochar Dov of Belz, zy”a, explains that, initially, the Kohen Gadol worries about his ability to atone for others since he recognizes that his own personal shortcomings are not yet rectified. However, when he realizes that he need not be judged in a vacuum on the basis of his individual mitzvos and transgressions, but can join himself and his teshuvah together with the rest of the nation, he becomes confident that through their collective merits, his repentance and Avodah will also be accepted.

The bull is the offering the Kohen Gadol slaughters and confesses over for himself, while the goat is the sacrifice he offers on behalf of the Jewish people. Accordingly, when he combines the blood of his own personal offering with the blood of the communal goat, it is a cause for joy, since he is now able to benefit from the communal merits and be forgiven together with the nation when he sprinkles the mixture to effect atonement.

Harav Yisroel Reisman adds that the Maharal makes a similar point regarding the recent Yom Tov of Pesach. Many of the laws governing the Korban Pesach are intended to strengthen our appreciation that no Jew is an island, and we must strive to connect ourselves to the broader Jewish community. For example, unlike other sacrifices that are brought by individuals, the Korban Pesach was meant to be offered on behalf of a chaburah, who shared ownership of the sheep and ate it together as a group at a joint Pesach Seder.

Additionally, there was a prohibition against breaking any of the bones in the Korban Pesach (Shemos 12:46), and its meat was specifically roasted (Ibid., 12:8-9) — a cooking technique used for whole foods — and not baked as individual pieces, since a mitzvah that serves to unite us may not be split apart and divided.

Just as the Kohen Gadol rejoices that he is able to merge his lot with that of the nation, so too the Korban Pesach teaches us the importance of increasing our commitment to our communal roles and obligations.

Q: Parashas Acharei Mos begins with Hashem speaking to Moshe after the death of Aharon’s two oldest sons, Nadav and Avihu (Vayikra 16:1). The Midrash Pliah cryptically says that when Iyov heard that they both died, he became frightened that he would also be punished. What is the connection between these two seemingly unrelated topics?

A: The Chida cites an explanation he heard based on the Gemara in Sotah that says that Pharaoh consulted with three of his advisors regarding his concerns about the burgeoning Jewish population. Bilaam suggested the wicked plan and was ultimately punished, Yisro fled because he disagreed with it and was rewarded for doing so, while Iyov remained silent, assuming that neutrality was the best course of action.

The Gemara in Sanhedrin records that when Moshe and Aharon were leading the way at Har Sinai, Nadav and Avihu followed behind them. When Nadav wondered aloud when Moshe and Aharon would die so that they could assume the mantle of leadership, Hashem replied, “We’ll see who will bury whom.” Rashi writes that it was for this act of seeking power that they died prematurely.

Although this incident explains why Nadav was killed, why was Avihu also punished when he was merely an innocent bystander? This episode teaches us that if a person witnesses or hears something problematic, it is insufficient to simply remain quiet and he must actively protest. Even though Avihu did not make the arrogant statement, he was still killed for not objecting to it.

When Iyov heard that two of Aharon’s sons died, meaning not only the instigator Nadav but also his unassertive brother Avihu, he was frightened by his realization that just as Avihu was punished for not standing up to Nadav, so too would he be punished for not conveying his opposition to Pharaoh’s diabolical plan.

However, the Chida points out that the Midrash says that the desire to replace Moshe and Aharon was verbally expressed by both Nadav and Avihu, in which case the underlying basis for this explanation of the Midrash would not be valid.

Q: A person who witnesses another Jew acting inappropriately is commanded to rebuke him (19:17). Can this mitzvah be performed via an intermediary, or is one required to rebuke the sinner himself?

A: Harav Yisroel Pesach Feinhandler rules that the person who observes the sin is required to deliver the rebuke himself, as it is considered lashon hara to inform an agent what the other person did. He adds that this is only the case if the witness is capable of delivering an equally effective message of rebuke. However, if he knows that an agent will be more successful than him, it would be permitted.


Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.