This week we have so much to discuss and so little time to do it but with HaShem’s help, we will become even more inspired to serve our Creator with love and fear. This week’s parasha, Acharei Mos, discusses the forbidden relationships. It is interesting to note that while the Jews were steeped in idolatry until the last moment of the Egyptian exile, they were pure and holy when it came to immorality. Why was this so? The Gemara (Sanhedrin 63b) tells us that the Jews served idols to permit forbidden relationships,and the Vilna Gaon explains that this statement applied throughout Jewish history. For example, when the Jews worshiped the Golden Calf, it is said (Shemos 32:6) וַיַּשְׁכִּימוּ מִמָּחֳרָת וַיַּעֲלוּ עֹלֹת וַיַּגִּשׁוּ שְׁלָמִים וַיֵּשֶׁב הָעָם לֶאֱכֹל וְשָׁתוֹ וַיָּקֻמוּ לְצַחֵק, on the next day they arose early, offered up burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings, and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and they got up to make merry. Rashi cites the Medrash that states that the word לְצַחֵק also connotes immorality. How was it possible, then, that the Jews worshiped idols in Egypt and yet did not succumb to the temptation of immorality?
I believe the answer to this questions is that the Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni Beshalach 234) states that when the Jewish People arrived at the Sea, the angel of the Sea did not wish to split the Sea, claiming that the Jews were idolaters. HaShem responded, “foolish one! Do you think the Jews worshiped idols on their own accord? Rather, they worshiped idols because they were deranged and because of the slavery that they were subjected to.” Thus, the Jews did not serve idols of their own volition. For this reason they did not succumb to the temptation of forbidden relationships, as their attachment to idolatry was only superficial.
While this may seem astonishing, we find that Halacha (Orach Chaim 622:2) requires us to read the parasha of forbidden relationships at Mincha of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. Apparently, ones Evil Inclination has some power even on this holy and abstinent day,and one has to be on high alert for any hint of licentiousness. This idea relates to Shabbos HaGadol, as the word גדולה, literally translated as greatness, is associated with the attribute of חסד, kindness. While kindness usually refers to acts of kindness, there is another form of kindness that is associated with immorality (Rashi Vayikra 20:17). Although on the festival of Pesach one can attain an exalted level of spirituality, one has to bear in mind the statement of the Gemara (Kiddushin 81a) that the weakest link of the year, ie. the most susceptible time, is the festivals, as people are more prone to engage in immoral acts at this time.
HaShem should allows us to maintain the lofty degree of spirituality that our forefathers reached upon leaving Egypt we should all merit the arrival Mashiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Have a wonderful and elevated Shabbos and an exalted and transcendent Pesach!
Chag Kosher Visameach