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Shabbat Parashat R'ei | 5764
Brothers From "One" Father
It is insufficient to understand the Torah’s messages and commands, individually. We must also understand the connection between them. The Torah says: “You are sons to Hashem, your G-d; do not cut yourselves (lo titgod’du) and do not make a baldness between your eyes for the dead” (Devarim 14:1). What is the connection between our being sons of Hashem and these prohibitions?
Rashi explains that self-mutilation over the death of a relative is not appropriate for the sons of Hashem, who must remain unblemished. This implies that if not for the high level of dignity we must maintain, it could be appropriate to show grief by damaging the body. But we must suffice with tearing our garments and other, tame acts of mourning. The Ramban connects the logic that “princes” must maintain dignity with the presentation of these laws elsewhere. In Vayikra (21:5), these prohibitions are written as if they apply only to kohanim. Indeed, although we are no kohanim, as children of Hashem, we have elements of kehuna, as well (see Shemot 19:6).
Seforno takes a different approach to the relevance, in this context, of our connection to Hashem. He says that one should not be pained to the fullest extreme by the loss of a close relative, in light of the fact that our most valuable relationship, that with our Father in Heaven, remains intact. Rephrasing this idea, we should note that, while it is sadly possible that one is orphaned from both parents, he always maintain one of the three partners in his creation (see Kiddushin 30b). The more one feels a meaningful connection with his Maker, the more likely he is to feel solace. Perhaps part of the intent behind the prohibition on a mourner’s self-mutilation is to remind one who has not fully internalized the idea that he is Hashem’s son.
At times, Chazal derive a halacha from the wording of a pasuk in a way that seems unrelated to the pasuk’ssimple meaning. One example is this pasuk of “lo titgod’du.” The gemara (Yevamot 14a) derives from here that people should not form groups (agudot), in a manner that one group acts conspicuously differently from others in its area on halachic matters. At first glance, the drasha is based just on a play on words. However, based on Seforno’s approach to the pasuk, there is a fundamental, underlying message that unites the two laws of lo titigod’du. If we are all connected to Hashem as sons, then we are brothers. As such, we should avoid acting in a way that antagonizes each other and causes familial strife. It is particularly inappropriate that our obligations to our Father, as delineated by halacha, which should unite us, will be the root cause of the discord among us.
As we end the month of destruction, caused by unnecessary hatred, and approach the month of religious soul-searching, we need to contend with a dilemma. How do we act in a religiously elevating manner, according to our own personal needs and views, without our approach causing resentment in the eyes of other sons of Hashem, who act or view things differently?
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