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Parshas Acharei Mos / Kedoshim - Playing with Fire                        7 Iyar 5783

04/27/2023 08:51:57 PM


The modern state of Israel just celebrated its Diamond Hebrew anniversary date, Mazal Tov! No country in the world has ever grown so rapidly since its inception as Israel. The expansion of Israel is evident in all sectors - education, agriculture, science, the military, and the list goes on and on. There is no question in most people’s minds that this is nothing short of a miracle, having been born only three years after the Jewish people were decimated, losing one third of its population worldwide. 

I look back and reflect on my own perspective of the span covering forty-one years of travelling to Israel.  My first visit took place in 1982, the year I studied in Yeshiva. Following that year,  fast forwarding over four decades, the country has changed dramatically, experiencing remarkable growth, both for better and for worse. First, the modernization of Israel is laudable.  It’s amazing to see how immigrants who arrived with minimal skills, totally impoverished, now share the wonder of seeing their children graduate from college and become part of the mainstream of Israeli life.  Building and construction used to have thirty Arabs  pouring cement, making the concrete, carrying up the bricks to buildings that were no taller than three stories. Today, there are still thirty Arabs building and constructing skyscrapers, only now one person works a crane one minute then jumps onto the Deere equipment while the other twenty-nine  stand around doing nothing. A sad change over this period is that I remember as a yeshiva student forty-one years ago, every Friday a bunch of us would catch  a Sheirut (a large nine passenger taxi) from Yerushalayim back to the Yeshiva in Telz-Stone. This number of Jewish and Arab passengers varied on each trip, but sometimes I was the only Jew traveling with eight Arabs (plus the Arab driver) through Abu Ghosh which was the town adjacent to Telz-Stone. Unfortunately, the security situation, as we’re all aware,  has deteriorated so markedly today  that terrorism knows no bounds, Rachmana Litzlan (Heaven should save us). Nevertheless, on a lighter note I’ll share both a positive and a negative observation of  Israel throughout the last forty-five years.

There are a few areas of modernization and technology where Israel has left many other advanced countries in the dust. Israel, known as the start-up nation, has earned worldwide recognition from advances in medical research, major archeological discoveries, climate change research, and  oceanographic research to name just a small sampling In contrast, parking a car in Israel has always been challenging, leading to fewer and fewer available parking spaces and more and more cars looking for a place to park. Available parking locations can be blocks away from the area the driver and passengers need to walk to. Long gone are the days of meters, and even putting a little ticket in your windshield allowing you to park for a fixed amount of time is no longer available.

Honk honk, pull over, one of the most popular parking apps is Pango, a pioneer in this field, which was founded in 2005. The app offers the convenience of cashless paying for curbside parking – without the need to use parking meters. It’s available for Android, iOS users in 60 cities in the US and Israel. This app also reminds its users when their time is running out, allowing them to buy more time, acting as a virtual parking meter at the touch of your fingertips. Pango’s last round of funding garnered $6.5 million in 2015. The Pango app currently allows drivers to pay for parking at street meters and in parking lots in over 60 cities in Israel, Europe, and the US. Drivers using Pango to park activate the app, which determines their location. Using a built-in database, the app activates an on-phone “meter,” registering the car with a municipal database. Parking enforcement officials who check meters and give out citations for vehicles parked in spaces with expired meters query the database and pass over vehicles that have the Pango app running. Upon returning to their vehicle and ending the “parking event”, drivers are told how much they owe, the sum is added to their cellphone bill or a pre-registered credit card and collected later by the parking enforcement agency.  Sounds great, right? Well… first for an old timer such as myself, it’s necessary to familiarize yourself with setting it up and checking to be sure you understand how to use the app. The major “glitch” that affected me is that it’s necessary to remember to start the Pango app when you park, and…even more importantly you also need to remember stop the timer when you leave the space! During my last trip to Israel, I paid more into the app while driving than I paid when my car was parked! Pango literally got me coming and going. The lesson is clear.  We need to know and to understand when to start and when to stop or shut down.  This is symbolized in the teachings of our sages by the life and death of Aharon’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu.

In this week’s Parshas Acharei Mos/Kedoshim, the Torah states in Vayikra 16:1 "וידבר ה' אל משה אחרי מות שני בני אהרן בקרבתם לפני ה' וימתו"  “God spoke to Moshe right after the death of Aharon’s two sons who brought an [unauthorized] offering before God and died”. Reb Yisrael ben Eliezer 1698-1760, known as the Baal Shem Tov בעל שם טוב, asks a question regarding the double language used in the verse. He explains from three different sources (Midrash Rabbah 44:6, Rashi in Sotah 33 and Rashi in Parshas Re’eh) that Chaza”l explain anytime the word אחר  (achar) is used it means something close by, and when the word אחרי  (acharei) is used it means separated or distanced. With this rule we can explain the death of Nadav and Avihu, Aharon’s two sons, in a new light. The word “after” in this week’s opening verse is “Acharei” with the yud indicating that the fear of death was far away - distant from them. Every minute of the Kohein’s service is wrought with fear that if they make a mistake, they face certain death. Nevertheless, a Kohain stands tall and ready to address the task at hand, with the full awareness of their limit and never to cross a certain line. One could imagine that every moment the Kohein grows closer to Hashem, his soul may just leave him if he makes a mistake - as his closeness grows.  Yet, they became too comfortable and distant, no longer fearing that death was an option by getting too close.

Nadav and Avihu were cocky. They lost their Yiras HaShem and were not afraid, becoming careless in their Temple service. This led to the devastating sin resulting in their death. So, too, we need to be fearful and aware of how we serve Hashem, remaining always cognizant of where we stand in front of God. If we maintain our fear, meaning how we daven, how we speak, how we treat others, how we learn, these combined focused actions will form a positive living experience, thereby avoiding the opposite results which grow from believing we can live a free-for-all lifestyle devoid of consideration for our Yiras HaShem, serving Hashem up close without overstepping the boundaries.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Tue, June 25 2024 19 Sivan 5784