Leviticus Hizkuni: Acharai Mot
“Make Thy Bed”
In order to justify my laziness, I would rationalize that it was a waste of time and energy to make one’s bed. Why bother covering and straightening out the bed, when later that same night (or earlier if lucky) I would be uncovering and messing it up again? To do such a wasteful action on a daily basis I theorized bordered on the insane.
Rabbi Yaakov ben Manoach (Hizkuni) asks a seemingly unrelated question. The answer however will not be pleasant to most teenagers or anyone who has yet to shake off this messy habit.
Once a year, on Yom Kippur, the holiest of days, the High Priest would dare enter the otherwise off-limits Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was so fear-inducing that a chain was attached to the body of the High Priest as he entered the sacred room. If God were to strike the High Priest dead on the spot, the other priests would be able to drag his body back out. There was apparently a period of time when this proved quite useful, as unworthy High Priests were reported to have died every year on Yom Kippur under exactly such circumstances.
The congregation of Israel would wait expectantly for the High Priest to exit the Holy of Holies alive. When he did, it was cause for great joy and the High Priest celebrated a personal holiday.
In the actual details of the service, the High Priest brings a shovel and ladle with burning incense into the Holy of Holies. He exits, brings other sacrifices outside and then returns to retrieve the shovel and ladle.
Hizkuni wonders why doesn’t the High Priest just leave the tools in the Holy of Holies and collect it the following year when he returns again. Why should the High Priest venture a second time in the potentially deadly Holy of Holies, just to clean up what he had left there?
Hizkuni seems to think that God and demanding mothers have yet something else in common, and they expect people to keep their rooms neat, make up their beds and even venture into the most sacred Holy of Holies to retrieve their belongings. Hizkuni states that it is not a waste of effort or unnecessary to clean up now something that can be dealt with later.
May we have the strength and good habits of making our beds and be able to cultivate it in ourselves and our children.
In the memory of Yaakov Karsch of Jerusalem who passed away this week. He was the wonderful and saintly father of our neighbor, Shmulik Karsch. Though I never checked if he made his bed, he was always neat and meticulous. I expect he would highly approve of people making their beds. For one so advanced in years, he had tremendous joy of life and gregariousness. May his family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.