Shabbat Parashat Acharei Mot| 5766
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - “You Distinguished and Sanctified in Your Sanctity” - From Derashot L’y’mei Hapesach pp. 62-63
Pesach begins this year with a special version of the Kiddush, which includes, along with the stress of the sanctity of the day, that which distinguishes it from the preceding day of Shabbat. “Between the sanctity of Shabbat and the sanctity of Yom Tov You distinguished,and the seventh day fromthesix days of activity You sanctified.” But then, we continue to stress, “You distinguished and sanctified Your nation, Israel, in Your sanctity.” On one hand, Yom Tov’s sanctity is lower than Shabbat’s. Shabbat is naturally holy from the time that the world was created, whereas Yom Tov receives its holiness only with the involvement of the Jewish people, who set the day when the date will occur. Yet, even the holiness of Israel, which enables us to accomplish such things as setting a Yom Tov, stems from “Your sanctity.” Although Shabbat’s sanctity is greater, on this day, Shabbat “gives up some of its honor” and allows us to slaughter the Korban Pesach on the day before Pesach, even when it falls on Shabbat (Pesachim 66a). So it is possible for a holiness that stems from Israel to overcome that which Hashem put into the creation. It is specifically the fine distinction between holy and holy that gives even the “lesser” holiness its special level, and from the distinction comes being sanctified in His sanctity.
It is an important type of wisdom, to be able to know and distinguish between holy and mundane and between holy and holy. We do not always succeed noticing the slight distinctions. But hairline distinctions sustain Judaism. The different halachic lines that divide between the permitted and forbidden and the pure and impure are such a fundamental part of our religious practice. It is for good reason that the Rabbis are sometimes referred to as the “men of the boundary,” because it requires great acumen and deep thought to know where to draw the line.
It seems that the content of such distinctions is at the heart of the mitzva to tell to the sons on Seder night. The father must address both the wise and the wicked sons. He must teach the wise son that which he has missed in the Torah of the day. Namely, he must be taught the concept of the unity of the Jewish people and the concept that it is impossible to sever the tie between the whole of the nation. The wise son asks: “What are the testimonies, the statutes, and the laws?” He does not understand how to unite the testimonies, which apply to anyone who is physically and historically part of our nation, with the statutes and laws, which represent the operable Torah. He does not see how one who is not connected to the performance of mitzvot can be linked to the rest. On the other hand, the wicked son asks what all this work is about, after we have reached independence. All of the ritual work made sense only in the Diaspora, he reasons, where there was no possibility to have elements of real nationhood.
We are required to correct both sides. We are to weaken the teeth of the wicked son- not to remove him from our midst but to fight his “bite.” He needs to understand that the sources of our faith are far stronger than he knows. “If he had been there (with his attitude) then he would not have been redeemed.” And if he was redeemed, then he must have a belief deep down inside him. We are to teach the wise son, as well, that it is not out of indifference that we keep the wicked son in our midst, but because the Korban Pesach requires that the entire congregation take part in its service. If the nation is primarily impure, then the halacha is to continue with the service despite the impurity. Hashem is He “who dwells among them in the midst of their impurity.” Along with the statutes go testimonies, and those who appear to be far away from keeping laws are capable of showing tremendous sacrifice for the continuation of our national role.
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