Category Archives: 5780

Spiritual First Responders (Tazria-Metzora)

Spiritual First Responders (Tazria-Metzora)

A man of courage is also full of faith. -Marcus Tullius Cicero

 

It’s fascinating and even a little eerie, that the Torah, written more than 3,300 years ago, already prescribes ideas of quarantine, isolation, contagion and social distancing millennia before the modern world figured it out for itself.

This week’s Torah reading of Tazria-Metzora deals with the spiritual-physical malady known as Tzaraat. It was an unusual skin condition that was the result of a spiritual-ethical failing, most commonly attributed to gossiping, but could also be caused by a host of other shortcomings. Tzaraat should not be confused with leprosy, an incorrect translation that is often used.

The Torah further details the treatment protocol of someone infected with Tzaraat. The afflicted person needed to be seen by a Kohen who would determine if it was indeed Tzaraat. If the Kohen confirmed that it was Tzaraat, the patient needed to leave their house, leave the entire encampment of Israel and remain in isolation until the Tzaraat was gone. The Meshech Chochma on Leviticus 13:2 delves deeper into the disease and specifically those tasked with intervention, the Kohens.

According to the Meshech Chochma, quoting Talmudic sources, Tzaraat was highly contagious. It may be that it was not necessarily from the physical transmission, but rather because the infected person suffered from a defect of the spirit, an ethical virus, that could easily be transmitted to someone with a weak spiritual immune system or other underlying spiritual maladies. That is one of the reasons the infected person would have to call out “impure, impure,” so people would know to avoid him and practice social distancing from him.

Because of the danger of the disease, and its possibility to easily infect others, one group from within Israel, the Kohens, who had already been separated and sanctified from within the rest of the people of Israel, were tasked with treating Tzaraat. The Kohens were designated to be the first responders, the doctors, and nurses who would check, diagnose, treat and tend to these spiritually afflicted people, even though the job took them out of their normal working environment of the Tabernacle. The Meshech Chochma states that the special designation of the Kohens gave them unique protection against the corrosive danger of the spiritual virus at the heart of Tzaraat.

The Kohen’s ancient role in Israel was to facilitate a Jew’s connection with God in the Tabernacle and later on in the Temple in Jerusalem. They braved an encounter with the dangerous virus of Tzaraat out of faith. The Kohen’s mission of being the spiritual physician of the people in turn provided him with protection against the spiritual virus.

May we all achieve and maintain spiritual and physical health and avoid viral infections of any sort.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the memory of the Holocaust survivors, including my grandparents, Jakob and Ita Spitz z”l.

We’re all in the Same Boat (Shmini)

We’re all in the Same Boat (Shmini)

When a man has done all he can do, still there is a mighty, mysterious agency over which he needs influence to secure success. The one way he can reach it is by prayer. -Russel H. Conwell

 

When Moses was apparently delayed in returning from the top of Mount Sinai, the people panicked and forced his brother Aaron to construct the infamous Golden Calf. God, in His fury, was ready to wipe out the people of Israel, but thanks to Moses’ intervention God relented and the nation was spared.

Fast forward many months later and Aaron, the newly inducted High Priest, during the consecration of the freshly built Tabernacle, is commanded by God to bring a sacrifice of a calf to atone for himself as well as for the entire nation. The Meshech Chochma on Leviticus 9:7 explains that this calf comes to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf.

He further elaborates that Aaron had not been completely spared from punishment. The older two of his four sons, Nadav and Avihu, were killed by God in a dramatic divine fire which emanated in the Tabernacle. Moses’ prayer led to God sparing only the two younger sons. Moses’ prayer did half the job.

The Meshech Chochma explains that the people still required atonement. While it was Aaron who physically constructed the Golden Calf, the people of Israel are the ones who had forced him to do it, and therefore they had a measure of responsibility that had not been forgiven. Therefore, Aaron’s sacrifice of the calf as an atonement for his sin of the Golden Calf would also serve as an atonement for the nation’s role in demanding of him to construct the idol.

They were in the same boat. They were essentially partners in the sin and the sacrifice would serve to atone for both Aaron and the nation. Aaron, the High Priest, needed to pray both for himself as well as for the rest of the nation. Thankfully, his sacrifice and his prayers were subsequently accepted.

May our prayers be rapidly accepted and may we see health restored to the entire world, quickly.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To those smart enough to be careful with social distancing.

A Seder of War, Famine, Wild Beasts and Plague

A Seder of War, Famine, Wild Beasts and Plague

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us. – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Much has been written, spoken, videoed and shared about the coronavirus pandemic we are all living through. I beg those who for whatever reason are still not taking it seriously, to please take all the requested precautions seriously. There is a natural tendency to think “it won’t happen to me.” I pray that it won’t, but the growing circle of our friends and acquaintances who have been struck by this disease is proving the foolishness of thinking anyone is more impervious than others to the disease that has run rampant around the globe. And if you have less concern for your own safety, at least please be mindful of others.

However, to the other end of the spectrum, to those who are living in dread and fear, I beg you to continue to take the requested precautions seriously, but to also be cognizant of your mental health. It is counterproductive to be so fearful that it affects your health, your wellbeing and that of those around you. Reach out. Talk to someone whom you trust or someone you think can give you the needed emotional support we all need, especially now. There is no shame in doing so.

It is indeed a time of global havoc. Not just health-wise, but also economic. Most of us have not seen such widespread dislocation in our lives. Many are on the front-line, saving lives from this invisible enemy. Many are supporting that effort. Many are wondering how they will survive the economic turmoil. Many are suffering in isolation; many because they are alone; many because they aren’t. The turmoil, pain, and despair are real.

Many platitudes can be given about being strong, about having faith, about this being an opportunity for growth. I believe in them. However, I also know that they will fall on deaf ears for those in the grip of fear. For those who don’t know where their next meal will come from. For those millions of people globally who are now unemployed and have no idea how they will generate income. I don’t know the answers. And that brings me to Pesach.

Our ancestors, more than 3,300 years ago, faced tremendous uncertainty. Others have already written about the parallels to the deadly plague of the firstborns which forced the Jews to remain locked in their homes on Pesach night. I want to focus on the uncertainties they faced. There was a massive shift in the world order occurring in those days. The mightiest empire on Earth, the powerful, centuries-strong Egyptian empire was ravaged by plagues. The Jewish people, a slave caste, was on the brink of not just freedom, but of being cut off from the only source of sustenance and employment they had known for generations. They were about to leave the only homes and possessions they knew. They were to follow Moses into the unknown, into the harsh, lifeless desert, with only the command of an unknowable God to back up the claims of His first prophet.

Did they not have reason to fear? Did they not have reason to distrust Moses and His invisible God? Did they not have a reason for cynicism? They did. However, we are the descendants of those who believed. We are the descendants of those who took a leap of faith. We are the descendants of those who had the courage, the strength, the spiritual drive to step into the unknown; to believe in an all-powerful God and His prophet; to believe in the legacy of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; to believe in the ancient promises, the divine covenant between God and our patriarchs. We believed. It is that unshakeable belief that has sustained our people through the most pernicious and devastating horrors humanity could inflict on us for over three millennia. We persevere. We stand, even with a sense of triumph. The triumph of being on the side of eternity.

We are an ancient people. We have seen empires rise and fall. We have seen civilizations built, destroyed and rebuilt. We have experienced and survived war, famine, wild beasts and plague. We can handle this. We shall overcome.

May this Seder, whether we are doing it alone, on our own, in smaller or different circumstances than we’re used to, be a meaningful Seder. May it be a reaffirmation of our unbreakable connection to our past Exodus; may it be a signal of our upcoming Exodus. May it signify our freedom. Our freedom from fear, our freedom from not just the microscopic plague that ails humanity but also the spiritual plagues that have infected our society. When we eat the Matza, that long-lasting poor man’s bread, may it be more heartfelt. When we drink the four cups of wine, symbolizing salvation, may we do so with greater significance. When we invite Elijah the Prophet to our home, may it be with greater emotion. And when we pray and sing to celebrate all together in a rebuilt Jerusalem next year, may we really mean it.

Wishing you and your loved ones a safe, joyous and inspiring Pesach.

Chag Kasher Ve’sameach,

Ben-Tzion

Correction on last week’s post: my dear friend, Rabbi Gad Dishi, pointed out that my interpretation of last week’s Meshech Chochma was not as accurate as possible. I translated the term “minim” as ancient atheists and understood the Meshech Chochma to be referring to people at the time of the Temple. Rabbi Dishi correctly pointed out that the Meshech Chochma appears to be referring to post-Temple Christians and their Eucharist service. However, the more accurate translation doesn’t change the gist or message of what I wrote.

The Proof is in Eating the Pudding (Tzav)

The Proof is in Eating the Pudding (Tzav)

Facts are God’s arguments; we should be careful never to misunderstand or pervert them. -Tryon Edwards

There is a significant portion of Torah commandments whose rationale is beyond our comprehension. One of the more famous ones is how water mixed with ashes of the Red Heifer, when sprinkled on a ritually impure person, purifies him, but in turn, makes the purifier impure. There are many more such cases. In our modern, science-worshipping age, there are even more Torah commandments that seem to be at odds with our sensibilities and understanding of the world. And when modern culture proclaims that we each have our own truth, that we can each determine for ourselves what is ethical, that there is no absolute truth, that there is no divinely mandated ethic, then it’s a wonder that anybody pays any attention to what the Torah might have to say.

One such area that modern sensibilities have difficulty with is the whole concept of animal sacrifices. Sacrifices are a major component of the entire Book of Leviticus and were the main activity both of the Tabernacle in the desert and of the Temple in Jerusalem.

However, the Meshech Chochma on Leviticus 6:9 says that it’s not only modern man who has a problem with God’s instructions to bring animal sacrifices – it also troubled ancient atheists. The ancient atheist (and modern man) will ask if Ruben sinned, why should an innocent animal pay for that sin with its life? How does sacrificing an animal exonerate or redeem a person? How can the thoughts of a second person, the Kohen who enables the sacrifice, achieve that pardon for the sinner? An atheist, not believing in any of this, rejects the entire premise.

What the atheist and modern man don’t realize is that the whole premise of sacrifices is indeed a foundational principle of the Torah, though we may not understand the underlying cause and effect. Somehow, there is a spiritual reality where, when the Tabernacle and Temple were in existence, the offering of a sacrifice did have an effect (though at some point in our history we abused this mechanism, as the later prophets exhorted that God was sick of our meaningless sacrifices and did see them as cruel murder of innocent animals).

As a result, atheists, in Temple times, were limited to only bringing sacrifices made of grains, so there would be no dissonance between their beliefs and their limited sacrificial service. However, the Kohen who served as the practical and spiritual intermediary to make sure the animal was sacrificed as per the proper ritual, he needed to eat from the meat of the animal he just offered. He was expected to have full concentration and pure purpose in affecting the spiritual rectification that his actions evoked. Once the Kohen ate from the animal he had sacrificed, then the penitent person would have proof that the Kohen was comfortable with the sacrificial actions, had done it properly and believed in the process, and the penitent himself could now partake of the meat of the sacrifice.

May we let go of the blindness of believing only what we can see or understand.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the memory of my aunt, Sima Frishman z”l, who passed away this week. May the family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Sanctity versus Power (Vayikra)

Sanctity versus Power (Vayikra)

We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom. -Stephen Vincent Benet

The beginning of the Book of Leviticus details a variety of sacrifices that are brought by different people for different sins. Two individuals are singled out in the list of sinners and they are prescribed different sacrifices. One personality is the Kohen Gadol (the High Priest); the other is the King.

The Meshech Chochma on Leviticus 4:21 analyses the differences between these two personalities. The Kohen Gadol is the most sacred role in Israel. He and only he is the one with the task, the burden and the great honor of entering the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. He represents the holiest person, in the holiest place at the holiest time in a unique annual communion with God, that when successful, conveys forgiveness to the entire people of Israel.

In Biblical times, the Kohen Gadol also wore the Urim Ve’tumim, the special breastplate with the twelve precious stones that enabled a very specific but powerful communication between God and the leadership of Israel. The bottom line is that the Kohen Gadol represented the pinnacle of sanctity and closeness to God. Because of this closeness, any sin that the Kohen Gadol committed, even if it was inadvertent, would be considered by the public as purposeful.

The King, on the other hand, was considered all too human. Because of his excess power, it was presumed that he would err more than your average citizen. That is why he was given additional strictures above those of non-Kings, such as the prohibition of accumulating too much wealth, too many horses or too many wives, and his need to carry a Torah scroll on him at all times.

The people, knowing well the King’s likelihood to blunder and to show poor judgment, would know that any sins of his are indeed mistakes and they would be more careful not to imitate such mistakes.

The Meshech Chochma adds that this is the reason why we don’t appoint Kohens as Kings (a reminder of the ultimately catastrophic Hasmonean monarchy – the combination of Kohens and kingship ended in disaster). The Kohen who is meant to be more attuned to divine service will turn away from God because of the royal power he gets. His arrogance will remove his fear of God. And if this Kohen King sins, the people may follow his example, considering him a holy man.

On the other hand, the Meshech Chochma continues, the people likewise can affect their king. When the people sin, the king can very likely be influenced by them and follow in their ways. The converse is likewise true: if the people are good and follow God, the king will be strengthened and encouraged to do the same.

May we never confuse holiness with power.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To all those working on a COVID-19 vaccine and cure.

Inherited Sensitivity (Vayakel-Pekudai)

Inherited Sensitivity (Vayakel-Pekudai)

You don’t raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they’ll turn out to be heroes, even if it’s just in your own eyes. -Walter Schirra Sr.

Before Moses ascends Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God, he tells the people of Israel that he’s leaving Aaron and Hur in charge. However, we never hear about Hur ever again. The Midrash says that Hur rejected the people’s request to construct the Golden Calf, and in their rage, they killed him. Aaron, understanding that he would be the next victim, and in an effort to prevent more bloodshed (his own), gave in to the request and made them the infamous Golden Calf.

When things eventually calm down, God chooses Hur’s grandson, Betzalel, as the main architect and designer of the Tabernacle, with the exclusive task of personally making the holiest piece, the Ark of the Covenant.

What is highly unusual about the Ark, and which likely raised eyebrows initially as it does in a sense to this day, is that God ordered that the Ark cover would have not only one but two figures, two little idols of cherubs facing each other.

How could it be that the same God who shows such abhorrence to graven images, who was ready to wipe out the entire nation of Israel because of their worship of the Golden Calf, could command the construction of figures to be placed on the holiest object, an object which symbolizes his most concentrated presence on earth?

There are multiple answers the rabbinic commentators provide to the question and I’ve given some of their answers in previous years (see Vayakel archive). However, according to the Meshech Chochma on Exodus 37:1, whatever the rationale, that Ark and those cherubs needed to be fashioned with the utmost purity of purpose, without any hint whatsoever of idolatrous intention.

That, according to him, is one of the reasons why Betzalel was such a perfect choice for the job. His grandfather, Hur, had fought, resisted and gave his life in the struggle against idolatry. By his upbringing and nature, Betzalel would have an abhorrence to idolatry. He would bring a complete purity of purpose in the creation of the Ark and its accompanying images, without a sliver of thought, without a notion of idolatry.

Hur’s heroic sacrifice helped form his grandson’s character. That grandson becomes a partner with God in the creation of the holiest items on earth.

May we see them returned, to the rebuilt Temple, speedily and in our days.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To all those on the front line of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Understanding a Son’s Sin (Ki Tisa)

Understanding a Son’s Sin (Ki Tisa)

Every man is an omnibus in which his ancestors ride. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

This week’s Torah reading contains the famous episode of the Golden Calf. Moses had gone up Mount Sinai to receive the Law from God. After forty days and nights, the people of Israel became anxious, and feeling leaderless, demanded of Aaron, Moses’ brother, that he make an idol for them. Aaron grudgingly does so.

The next morning the people of Israel worship the Golden Calf. They do this at the foot of Mount Sinai, forty days after having heard the voice of God, three months after having been miraculously liberated from Egypt. God is understandably furious (whatever that means theologically). God is ready to destroy the nation of Israel. He informs Moses of his plan to wipe out all of Israel and start over again with Moses as the Patriarch of a new nation that would ostensibly remain loyal and steadfast in their devotion to God.

This is where Moses steps in. He prays to God. His prayer is so strong, so sharp, so convincing, that he somehow gets God to stay His wrath. (Parts of his prayer are used in our liturgies to this day).

The Meshech Chochma on Exodus 32:8 digs a little deeper and wonders as to what gave Moses the insight, the clarity and the wisdom to articulate such an effective prayer and thereby save the entire nation of Israel.

He answers based on the Talmud (Tractate Berachot 32a) which says that Moses prayed until he felt “fire in his bones.” The Meshech Chochma details that the reference to “fire in his bones” is that Moses prayed to God for forgiveness for Israel about the Golden Calf until he felt in his bones that he also had the same fault. Only when Moses reached that point of understanding and identification with the sin of Israel, was he able to achieve forgiveness for Israel.

What aspect of the sin was in Moses’ “bones?” The Talmud (Tractate Niddah 31a) states that a characteristic that a father bequeaths to his son is his bones. The Midrash based on the Book of Judges tells us that Moses’ grandson Yehonatan was guilty of worshipping idols. That gave Moses the opening to say to God: “God, you want to make a new nation from me? In my family, I will also have this fault of idol worship.”

So Moses’ understanding and identification with his future grandson’s idolatry somehow saved the nation of Israel from being punished for that same crime.

May we identify with our progeny, and they with us.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To all those in quarantine.

Valuable Parental Respect (Tetzave)

Valuable Parental Respect (Tetzave)

A child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone. -Billy Graham

The Talmud (Tractate Kiddushin 31a) tells the unusual case where one of the twelve precious stones of the High Priest’s breastplate fell out and was lost. The sages needed to find a replacement for this rare and valuable stone. They found such a stone by a non-Jew in Ashkelon by the name of Dama son of Netina. The sages approached Dama with a great sense of urgency:

“I’d love to sell you the stone,” Dama says, “but the key to my safe is under my father’s pillow. He’s currently sleeping and I won’t wake him up, even for the generous sum that you’re offering.”

The sages leave and presumably find another stone elsewhere. Dama’s great care and respect for his father lost him a tremendous business deal.

God, however, did not forget Dama’s respect for his father. The following year, when the sages found themselves in need of a Red Heifer (a rare and valuable animal required for a vital purification ritual in Temple times), it turned out that Dama was the only one that had one in his herd. The sages found themselves at Dama’s door once again, and Dama knew that he could command an exorbitant price for the Red Heifer due to the circumstance of him having the only one at the time. However, Dama contented himself with charging the amount that he would have gotten for the precious stone he didn’t sell the year before. Thus, God made sure Dama didn’t lose in the end because of his great respect for his father and indeed, Dama’s name has since stood for centuries as a paragon of parental respect.

The Meshech Chochma on Exodus 28:9, where we have the listing of the different precious stones of the High Priest’s breastplate, points out a biblical link to Dama’s story. The stone that went missing in Dama’s story was the Yashphe, the stone that represented the Tribe of Benjamin. Of all of Jacob’s sons, Benjamin was the only one who hadn’t caused his father grief and showed the utmost respect to Jacob (ten of the brothers participated in the sale of Joseph to Egypt – perhaps the biggest anguish in Jacob’s life; and according to the Midrash, in a fashion, Joseph himself was a party to the conspiracy, by remaining quiet about it afterward).

It was therefore appropriate, that the son who demonstrated the greatest respect to his father would merit that God’s concentrated presence, via the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, would reside in his tribal allotment. We find that throughout the centuries of movements of the Tabernacle, it always remained within the tribal portion of Benjamin and the final address of the Ark, in the permanent structure of the Temple, also fell in the portion of Benjamin.

May we always demonstrate proper respect for our parents.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To an Israeli government?

God wants us, He doesn’t need us (Truma)

God wants us, He doesn’t need us (Truma)

Man is a creation of desire, not a creation of need. -Gaston Bachelard

 

After the historic divine revelation at Mount Sinai, God commands Moses to build a Sanctuary, the Tabernacle. The Torah provides extreme detail as to the composition, construction, and measurements of the inner components of the Tabernacle as well as to its structural elements.

The central and most famous component of the Tabernacle is the Ark of the Covenant, where the two tablets containing the newly received Ten Commandments were stored. (It is not, contrary to popular belief, being held in a US government warehouse, after being rescued from the Nazis by Indiana Jones…).

A curious design feature of the Ark is that it has two poles for carrying it. Well, that’s not the curious part. The curious part is that there is an explicit command that those two poles may never be removed from the Ark, even when there is no longer a need for them and nobody is carrying the Ark.

The Meshech Chochma on Exodus 25:11-18 learns a deep lesson as to the necessity of permanently leaving the carrying poles in an Ark that is not being carried.

He explains that we misunderstand the role of the poles and by extension, God’s role and relationship to us.

The poles are not there to carry the Ark. The Ark, in some metaphysical fashion which we don’t understand but that the Talmud verifies (Tractate Sotah 35a), carries itself. In fact, not only does the Ark carry itself, but it actually carries the people who think they’re carrying the Ark.

To support his argument further, the Meshech Chochma brings the example of the second most famous component of the Tabernacle, the Candelabrum, the Menorah. According to Maimonides, the Menorah was lit not only at night but also during the day. Why light the scarce and precious olive oil during the day when there is no need for illumination? The Meshech Chochma explains that it comes to make the same point. God doesn’t need the light; not at night and not during the day. By lighting the Menorah during the day, the obvious lack of a practical physical purpose demonstrates that God doesn’t need it. The same point is made by the poles. The Ark doesn’t need the poles, and by having them permanently attached, even when at rest, it further demonstrates that at a deeper, fundamental level, they are not really needed.

Ultimately, these physical examples inform our own relationship with and service to God. God doesn’t need it. God manages and will manage just fine without us. However, He wants us. He does want a relationship with us. He does want us to reach out to Him. He does want us to connect. Not because He needs us, but rather, because He wants us.

May we always be wanted by God.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the Israeli voters (again).

Adulterer, Murderer, Kohen (Mishpatim)

Adulterer, Murderer, Kohen (Mishpatim)

The study of crime begins with the knowledge of oneself. All that you despise, all that you loathe, all that you reject, all that you condemn and seek to convert by punishment springs from you. -Henry Miller

In the midst of a recital of numerous civil laws and capital offenses, the Torah adds an unusual phrase:

When a man schemes against another and kills him treacherously, you shall take him from My very altar to be put to death. -Exodus 21:14

The Meshech Chochma wonders as to the seemingly superfluous line of “treacherously, you shall take him from My very altar.” Anyone who kills someone else merits the death penalty. Why the extra verbiage in a text that we know conserves every word possible?

The Meshech Chochma connects the intent of the murderer of the above verse with two other personalities that were presumed to have murder on their minds: Pharaoh from the time of Abraham, and Avimelech, King of Grar. Abraham suspected and feared that both of these monarchs would have killed him to get his beautiful wife Sarah when he visited their domains. We are told their stories in the Book of Genesis, of how Abraham and Sarah pretended to be brother and sister, which led each of the monarchs to take Sarah for themselves until God miraculously intervenes in each case and forces the potentially murderous monarch to return Sarah to Abraham. It seems that had Abraham and Sarah revealed that they were married, it would have been likely that Abraham would have been killed in order to make Sarah “available” for the monarchs.

The Meshech Chochma however, connects our verse with another creature that was named “treacherous,” namely, the snake in the Garden of Eden. The Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Sotah 9b) presents the Midrash which states that the conniving snake desired Eve and plotted to kill Adam to get her, (hence getting them to eat from the forbidden fruit, which would trigger Adam’s death).

The Meshech Chochma goes further and states that the likely culprit of such adulterous thoughts and murderous activity would be none other than a Kohen! That would explain the need to take him away from the altar – the Kohens are the ones who are serving God at the altar. However, there are additional reasons to make the Kohen a particularly apt suspect:

  1. Kohens are prohibited from marrying a divorcee. Therefore, the only way they could permissibly marry a married woman whom they desired would be to kill the husband. All non-Kohens could wait for a non-lethal divorce.
  2. Kohens, as Temple servants, would come into frequent contact with women who brought their various sacrifices to the Temple. The frequent contact could lead them to murderous thoughts to separate these women from their living husbands.

May we be spared from treacherous thoughts and treacherous people.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To all of the Kohens in my life. They are wonderful, upstanding and inspirational people.