Parshas Acherai

Parshas Achrai Mose

(Based on Zera Shimshon Acherai aleph pg 39)

Rebbi Chiya bar Aba asks, “The sons of Aharon died on Rosh Chodesh Nison so why is their death mentioned when the Torah speaks of  Yom Kipppur?” (The answer) “To teach us that just like Yom Kippur atones so to the death of tzadikim atones.” (The Medrash continues with another question), “And how do we know that Yom Kippur atones? (The answer) Since it says, ‘because on that day (Yom Kippur) Hashem will pardon and forgive you…” (Medrash Rabah Vayikra 20/12)

Zera Shimshon asks why does the Medrash ask how do we know that Yom Kippur atones? It is very common knowledge that Yom Kippur is a day of atonement and there are are many posukkim that attest to this. Why then did the Medrash feel it necessary to bring a proof to this?

He begins his answer  by quoting the Gemorra in Yoma  that teshuva by itself doesn’t always bring COMPLETE atonement. A person who transgresses a Torah prohibition that doesn’t have a punishment of karrais (lo s’asse sh’ain bo karrais) , gets full atonement only with teshuva  that is coupled with Yom Kippur.

The Rif (a commentary on Ain Yaakov) explains that the above Gemorra isn’t all inclusive. The Gemorra is only speaking about  a person who does teshuva because of fear of punishment. Only he needs Yom Kippur to finish the teshuva process. However when one does teshuva out of love of Hashem then teshuva by itself is enough to  bring full atonement and Yom Kippur is not needed. 

This being so, writes Zera Shimshon, we can explain that the Medrash compares the death of Tzaddikim to Yom Kippur only with regards to someone who did teshuva from fear. Just like Yom Kippur completes the teshuva process for one who does teshuva from fear so too when a person does teshuva from fear the death of the tzaddik completes the teshuva process. 

But the question still remains, continues the Medrash, how do we know that this is really true? How do we know that  Yom Kippur completes the teshuva process even though he repented because of fear? Maybe Yom Kippur only completes teshuva from love?

To proof this, the Medrash quotes the possuk “because on that day (Yom Kippur) Hashem will pardon and forgive you, before Hashem you  will be purified”.  

Seemingly, the last phrase “before Hashem you will be purified” is redundant . If Hashem  pardons someone then  obviously they are purified before Hashem

Zera Shimshon therefore explains that the Medrash understood that these two phrases actually refer to two different types of teshuva.

The second phrase refers to one who does teshuva from love.Therefore “before Hashem you will be purified”, and there is no need for Yom Kippur. However, if the teshuva is only because of fear, then “because on that day (Yom Kippur) Hashem will pardon and forgive you”. This is the proof, explains Zera Shimshon, that Yom Kippur completes the teshuva process even for teshuva done out of fear!

According to this we can now understand why the Medrash needed to bring a proof that Yom Kippur atones. The Medrash is bringing a proof that even if one does teshuva only from fear of punishment Yom Kippur also completes the teshuva process. This is not common knowledge!

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This d’var Torah is dedicated to Beracha Bas Menucha Shaina. In the merit of  the  learning Zera Shimshon’s divrai Torah, Hashem should answer her prayers and she should quickly find her proper match along with all the other members of Clal Yisroel who are also looking for their zivug hagun