Friday, July 13, 2018




          I read the following story a few year ago:
Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita, was once exiting shul when a man approached and engaged him in a lengthy halachic conversation.
The man continued the discussion as Rav Chaim made his way down the street. At the end of the block, Rav Chaim walked up the stairs and into his home. Then he removed his weekday kapoteh (long coat) and donned his Shabbos kapoteh. The man seemed oblivious to it all as he continued the lively dialogue back down the steps and along the street toward a nearby wedding hall.
Together they walked into the hall and up to the front where Rav Chaim sat down among the distinguished guests, all the while continuing to respond and continuing the conversation. Every few moments he would stand up and embrace one of the guests or rise to give a handshake. Then he would sit down, and the man resumed the conversation.
Finally, Rav Chaim turned to the man and said, “Forgive me, but I have to walk my son down to his chupah now.”

      Although an accident can often be rectified with an apology, at times it can be very severe. One who murders by accident is held somewhat accountable for the act, because he should have been more cautious.
The Torah commands an ‘accidental murderer’ to flee to specified ‘Ir Miklat - cities of refuge.’ The Torah warns that if the murderer is not within the confines of the city, a relative of the deceased is permitted to avenge the blood of the deceased. The murderer must remain in exile with only one means of redemption. “For he must dwell in the city of refuge until the death of the Kohain Gadol, and after the death of the Kohain Gadol the killer shall return to the land of his possession.”[1]
      The Gemara[2] wonders what the Kohain Gadol has to do with the murderer’s accident? One can only imagine the prayers the murderer begs to the Almighty for the untimely demise of the Kohain Gadol so that he can return to his family, home, and possessions.  Why should the Kohain Gadol have that against him on account of a stranger’s careless murder?
The Gemarah answers, “For he should have prayed for his generation that such catastrophic events not occur, and he didn’t!” The Kohain Gadol is responsible, not only for the Temple service but also for the spiritual greatness and physical wellbeing of Klal Yisroel. If such an event occurred, it is indicative of the fact that the Kohain Gadol has not offered ample prayer and concern for the nation.
      The enigma of these laws however is even greater. The Rambam[3] states: “If the verdict of the murderer (that he must flee to exile) was declared and then the Kohain Gadol died, the murderer is exempt from exile and he may return home. However, if the Kohain Gadol passed away just before the verdict was declared, the murderer is obligated to go into exile until the passing of the new Kohain Gadol.”
Even if the Kohain Gadol has an obligation to pray for his generation, what liability is there for one who became Kohain Gadol moments earlier? When a president takes office on the day of his inauguration, millions view the ceremony as the President proudly assumes his new position. In those great moments we would hardly expect him to be worrying and agonizing over some homeless kids in the Bronx. In a much greater and more spiritual sense, the day the Kohain Gadol assumes his role it is a very special day for him. Unique sacrifices are offered, and surely, he will want to spend some time expressing his joy to G-d for the tremendous opportunity. At that moment is he supposed to be worrying about accidental murderers?
      The simple answer is that indeed the new Kohain Gadol is expected to do just that. A Kohain Gadol is worlds apart from a President or monarch. His entire responsibility as the new leader of Klal Yisroel is to be devoted to the nation and concerned with their welfare on every level. about them, every single one of them, at every moment. The greatness of our leaders throughout the generations is that they achieved this great level, just like the Kohain Gadol.
The Ponovezher Rav, Rabbi Yosef Sholom Kahaneman zt’l, once walked into the home of the Chofetz Chaim and heard cries emanating from the room of the holy sage (in the vernacular of Rav Kaheneman), “as if a mourner was crying in front of a corpse”. Alarmed, Rav Kahaneman rushed over to the Rebbitzin who was busily sweeping the floors and asked her if the Rav was okay. The Rebbitzin casually replied that a woman had just come to the Rav and said that she has been childless in marriage for years. She asked that he daven for her to merit having children.

      This is an extremely high level, but that is why there was only one Kohain Gadol, and that is why our great leaders are so precious to us. There was no greater personification of such love and care for Klal Yisroel than the one who initiated these laws, i.e. Moshe Rabbeinu. When he begged Hashem to replace him with a worthy leader he said, “And let the assembly of Hashem not be like sheep that have no shepherd.”[4] From the beautiful words Moshe employed, it is apparent how much love and devotion he felt for Klal Yisroel. That was why he was able to convey such demanding laws for the Kohain Gadol. 

     Dovid Hamelech wrote, “As the ayol (deer) longs for brooks of water so my soul longs for you, G-d.”[5] An ayol is a male deer (buck). In contrast, the word ‘ta’arog’ is the feminine way of saying ‘longs/yearns’.
Rabbi Yitzchak Eizik Charif zt’l explained that the Medrash Tehillim relates that deer are gifted with a tremendous power of prayer. When there is a shortage of rain the animals approach the deer and beg it to use its penetrating prayers to beseech G-d for rain. The female deer (doe) is a caring animal and obliges. However, what would happen if the female deer found herself in midst of labor when the other animals approached her to beg her to pray for rain? There is hardly any greater pain in the world than the process of childbirth and at that moment the deer surely wants to cry out for her own plight? Yet she ignores her own needs and prays for rain for the forest. In her greatest moment of need, the female deer pretends she is ‘k’ayol’ like a male deer that cannot have labor pains, and ‘ta’arog’ she pines, yearns, cries and prays for water for all the animals.
This is the beauty of Dovid’s words. Just as the doe forgets her own plight and prays for the needs of the world, so G-d does my soul forget its pain and woes and instead yearns and pines to be closer to You, the true G-d.

      It is not easy to think about others when we are concerned about our own welfare. But the Torah demands that we not forget those less fortunate even in our own times of need. How impressed are we when in the midst of a person’s simcha or (G-d forbid) in times of tragedy the person asks us how we are doing? This is but a small reflection of the required concern the Kohain Gadol must always have for Klal Yisroel. Ultimately this too is our goal, not only to constantly think about others but even more so to always be thinking about G-d and the desecration of His name in exile.
Like the Kohain Gadol on the day of his coronation, like the deer on the day of its labor, “so does my soul yearn for You, the living G-d.”

It’s often said that perhaps our most important focus during this time of year, is to try to be more mindful about the plight and feelings of others. That is what is required of us to help end the exile and bring about the ultimate redemption.
Perhaps we will never reach the level demanded of the Kohain Gadol, but on our own level, the more we think beyond ourselves the more we will be able to promote unity, and the quicker we will merit to greet Moshiach, and celebrate the future holiday of Tisha B’av.

“For he must dwell in the city of refuge until the death of the Kohain Gadol”
 “As the ayol (deer) longs for brooks of water”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Bamidbar 35:28
[2] Makos 11a
[3] Hilchos Rotzeiach 7:11
[4] Bamidbar 27:17
[5] Tehillim 42:2


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