The matter of kedusha (sanctity) is very much stressed in the parshiyot of Vayikra. Parashat Acharei Mot starts with the service of the kohen gadol on Yom Kippur, whose pinnacle is in the Kodesh Kodashim of the mikdash. The parasha ends with the prohibitions of arayot (illicit relations), which is followed with the charge, “Be holy, for I, Hashem your G-d, am holy” (Vayikra 19:2). Rashi explains this to mean: “separate yourself from arayot and sin, for whenever you find separation from arayot, you find kedusha.” Parashat Kedoshim also ends with the commandment: “You shall be for Me holy, for I am holy, and I have separated you from the nations to be for Me” (ibid. 20:26).
The plaintiff (=pl) hired the defendant (=def), an architect, to draw up plans to add a floor to his house and get municipal approval. Def gave an estimate of 9,500 shekels, based on 30 hours to accomplish the tasks. They signed a contract along these lines, adding that the price can change according to the work needed. Def quickly exceeded the estimate, and pl initiated non-judicial arbitration. The arbitrator (=arb) made a compromise about the past, and set a price (4,176 shekels) for all future work until pl would receive his permit or pl would approve extra work. Def started a major new element of the job without consultation and charged pl 12,180 shekels for it before the permit was received. Pl went back to arb, who approved 8,000 shekels of the charge. Matters with the municipality became more complicated, and def asked for more money to deal with it. When pl refused, def stopped working, and the municipality closed the file. As a result, pl fired def and demanded a refund, claiming that def had failed to get the permit and made unreasonable financial demands. Def argues that pl’s intervention in conferring with municipality officials undermined his efforts and that pl acknowledged that if the need for work increased, he deserved more.
It once happened that a man’s wife died and left a baby who needed to be nursed. He did not have the funds to hire a nursemaid. A miracle happened, and he grew breasts and nursed his son. Rav Yehuda said: come and see how difficult it is to earn a living. For this person had a miracle done for him (by growing breasts), instead of receiving money in a miraculous way.
Last week we illustrated the similar language the Torah used to describe Kriat Yam Suf and the Brit Bein Hab’tarim with Avraham Avinu. Chazal, who saw this connection, instituted in Ma’ariv the following nusach to describe Kriat Yam Suf: “He who passed his children through the strips of Yam Suf”. Chazal used the word (gezarim) that is connected to Brit Bein Hab’tarim. Furthermore, we saw an explicit pasuk connecting these two events by describing the sojourn in Egypt for a period of four hundred thirty years, which was counted from Brit Bein Hab’tarim.
The first half of our parasha is dominated by the special laws that apply to the kohanim. The heart of these laws is summed up: “It shall be holy for you, for I am holy, I am Hashem who makes you holy” (Vayikra 21:8). This follows Parashat Kedoshim, where the entire nation is commanded to act in holiness since Hashem sanctified the entire nation (ibid. 19:2). Thus, the kohanim have an even higher level of sanctity and expectations for appropriate behavior than the rest of the holy nation.