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Rabbi Kalmar's Message Parshat Achrei-Mot - Kedoshim April 23/24, 2021

"The State of Israel is a source of Pride and Inspiration”

This past week at shul we did not say Av HaRachamim.  Some people may have gotten annoyed.  “What’s going on? Why are we skipping Av HarRachamim?”  Of course, most people were not annoyed.  “If the rabbi wants to make davening shorter – we are all behind it!  Go rabbi!”

Why did we skip it?  Really it doesn’t make sense.  The week before we said Birkas HaChodesh, and normally when we do we don’t say Av HaRachamim, as the Av HaRachamim prayer is omitted on joyous days, because it is a sad and somber prayer.  But many have the custom to say it anyway because we find ourselves during the period of the Omer, in which many of the massacres of Jewish communities during the early crusades took place.  The Av HaRachamim prayer was composed to remember those massacres and therefore it is appropriate to say it even on a week when Birkat HaChodesh is said.

So why didn’t we say it last week?  Because it was Heh Iyar, the fifth of Iyar, which is the Hebrew date of Yom Ha’atzmaut.  But didn’t we observe Yom Ha’atzmaut on last Thursday?  And didn’t the Federation observe it on Sunday?  What’s going on?  So we know that the Rabbanut instituted Yom Ha’atzamut and therefore, like other rabbinic holidays and fasts, they have the power to move the dates when necessary.  In order to avoid the violation of Shabbos, they move the date of Yom Ha’atzmaut often, so that it rarely falls out on the 5th of Iyyar anymore.   There are some places where they still observe Yom Ha’atzmaut on the proper Hebrew date outside of the land of Israel, assuming that this will lead to no violation of Shabbos observance.  I was tempted to ask Joel, who was davening Shachris, to just do another Hallel on Shabbos morning!  So, as Shabbos was the 5th of Iyyar, we did not say Av HaRachamim.   And why not?  Because we consider the 5th of Iyyar to be a day with religious significance.  We see the hand of God in the creation of the State of Israel.  We see blessings that have come about that are amazing to behold.  The State of Israel has become a world leader in agriculture, in technology, in startup business and in extending a helping hand to nations across the globe.  It is a center of Torah and learning.  It is a power economically and militarily – look what happened in Natanz just recently – although of course Israel is not taking credit for that officially – but it just shows the prowess of the small State of Israel.  A state which has raised the stature of the Jew in the world.  In the 1940’s the Jew was the most degraded and destroyed people on the planet.  And then in 1948 and 73 years later, there is a very different story.  We are living in miraculous times.  Some choose to see it a very different way. But when we look at the history of the Jewish people, we feel blessed to see the creation of the State of Israel and as religious Zionist Jews we ascribe a religious significance to the creation of Israel.

I saw that Rav Shalom Rosner points out that in the parsha of Metzora we are told about two anomalies that occur in the offering of the Metzora, the one who has been afflicted with the skin condition of Tzaraas.    One is that the Metzora and the Kohein are told to wave the live sheep. Yes, that’s right, they are told to wave the live sheep that the Metzora is to offer.  This is rare.  Normally, the parts of an offering that get waved are waved after the slaughter and dismembering of the animal.  The second anomaly is that after the slaughter the blood of the offering is daubed on the Metzora, on his right thumb, right ear lobe and right big toe.  Normally the blood is only sprinkled on the altar and not on the one bringing the offering. How do we understand these anomalies?

 

Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl points out that there is another time when a live animal is waved – and that is the offering that is brought on Shavuos.  Shavuos represents the time of the giving of the Torah.  This was considered a time of the conversion of the Jewish people.  It was as if they were getting a new start, a new lease on life at the giving of the Torah.  They were leaving the darkness of slavery and entering the light of freedom and new beginnings.  The Metzora as well has been re-created.  For a week or more he has been on lockdown, shut away from the rest of the community, living outside the camp in isolation.  His return to the blessings of this world is like a completely new beginning for him.  The waving of the live animal, as opposed to the pieces of a dead one is as if to say – this is me – I am like this animal – and I deserve to be alive!  I have a future and a purpose!

Similarly, says Rav Nebenzahl, the sprinkling of the blood on a person reminds us of a story connected to the giving of the Torah at Sinai.  When the people said “Naaseh ViNishma”, “we will do and we will listen”, Moshe was instructed to sprinkle the people with the blood of the sacrifice.  The Metzora, who went wrong by speaking lashon hara and other sins is reminded of this by the blood which is put on his hands, ear and feet.  It reminds him not to run to do evil and to listen to good about others.

So the Metzora gets a chance to start over.  He has been in isolation and has had time to think about what he has done wrong.  He gets his own personal ‘Giving of the Torah’ and starts over.

We have all been living a year of isolation and separation.  Thank God we are starting to see the blessing of being able to emerge from that isolation. And God willing that should only continue to grow.  We don’t know why we were stuck in that period – but what we do know is that as we come out, we need to choose to do so in a way that makes us even better that we were before.  We are not just getting back to normal.  We are going to live lives of destiny and purpose, even greater that before!  

The State of Israel was born out of period of intense darkness in which the Jewish people were isolated from being treated like the rest of humanity.   But the State of Israel has grown and grown and prospered in amazing ways.  It has become stronger and stronger.  We too now have a chance to come back stronger and better than before.

Rav Nebenzahl makes one more point.  At Sinai, we stood as a people, ‘k’ish echad bilev echad’.  There was tremendous unity.  The Metzora returns from a place where he or she was causing strife and disunity among the people.  The Metzora’s job now is to come back into the community and do their best to strive to create unity among the Jewish people.  Let us remember that. This past year has been one of strife for so many reasons.  Let us do our best to come back stronger in a way that lifts the Jewish people together, that encourages us to work together for the needs and peace of Klal Yisrael and brings us closer to the geulah sheleimah and building of the beis hamikdash bimheirah biyameinu.     

Wed, May 18 2022 17 Iyyar 5782