Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 2021 Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron בס"ד
Discover the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
The Tetragrammaton in the Passage of Punishments
In the last passage of Parshat Kedoshim, the “Passage of Punishments,” as our Sages call it, there are 26 verses, except for the usual opening verse, “Hashem spoke to Moshe to say.” Verses 2 till 6 – five verses – talk about the punishment given to one who was supposed to be stoned but was not – Hashem will enact punishment on such a person. Verses 7 till 16 – ten verses – talk about death punishments enacted by the Sanhedrin. Verses 17 till 21 – five verses – discuss punishment enacted by Hashem alone, such as spiritual “incision” – karet, death, childlessness, etc. Verses 22 till 27 – six verses – discuss general warnings pertaining to the sanctity of Israel, except for the clinching verse, which enigmatically seems out of place. Soon we will explain this “strange” verse in an amazing way.
Does the configuration of these verses ring a bell? Yes, that’s right, they correlate exactly with the letters of the Tetragrammaton – yod = ten [verses], heh = five [verses], vav = six [verses], heh = five [verses], however in a different order [heh, yod, heh, vav]. What does all this mean? According to the Kabbalists, yod represents the highest of the sefirot – Hochma, while the first heh represents Bina, the second-highest sefira. Here we see that the “highest” levels of punishment are contained in the ten – yod – verses pertaining to capital punishment instrumented by the Sanhedrin. According to our Sages, punishments enacted by Hashem, such as karet, death, childlessness, etc., are severe but not as severe as the Sanhedrin’s death penalty. This may explain why these punishments enacted by Hashem are contained in five – heh – verses corresponding to the first heh in the Tetragrammaton, associated with the sefira of Bina. Similar to the first heh, according to the Kabbalists, is the second heh, which corresponds to the lowest sefira of Malchut. The other group of five – heh – verses mentioned in this Passage of Punishments (verses 2-6) also pertain to punishments enacted by Hashem. However, unlike the previous group that dealt with punishments enacted “ideally” by Hashem which we associated with Bina the first/”upper” heh, this group is ideally done by the Sanhedrin, but since the Sanhedrin failed to fulfill their purpose, God must “intervene” and enact the death penalty on such a person. Here we may explain that since this matter is not ideal, i.e., the “lowest” level in preference, it is associated with the “lowest” sefira – Malchut. The last group of six verses corresponds to the vav in the Tetragrammaton, associated by the Kabbalists to an aspect of “connecting/uniting/generalizing” just as vav is a connecting/uniting letter. In these verses are “general” matters pertaining to the sanctification of Israel that pertain and “connect” all the aforementioned groups, saying that punishment must be enacted on these offenses [especially regarding relationships especially associated with the concept of “sanctity”] since Israel is a sanctified People. Here we reach the clinching verse, which enigmatically seems out of place. According to our Sages in the Sifri, this verse comes to teach that every place that the term “blood upon them” is mentioned, the intent is stoning. This again is a “general” teaching, shedding light upon all the verses we mentioned. Thus, this verse is perfectly placed in the group of verses pertaining to “general” matters, corresponding to the vav of the Tetragrammaton.
However, why is the Tetragrammaton not spelled here in its usual order, but rather in the order heh, yod, heh, vav? This order of the Tetragrammaton, according to the Kabbalists, corresponds to the month of Tevet, associated with the attribute of fury (Sefer Yetzira). Indeed, in the Passage of Punishments, we see God’s attribute of “fury,” so to speak, enacting judgment upon those who go against His Will.
The site of the first battle mentioned in the Torah is Hebron, from which Avraham departed to fight the four kings who had captured Lot. Lot was also one of the the ancestors of King David the great fighter of Israel, who also began his rule in Hebron. In the future as well, victory will come from Hebron, from which will arise the might to fight all the foes and oppressors of Israel in the “fury of Hashem,” as the Tikunei Zohar says: “At that time (the end of days), the three Patriarchs will adjoin with might, and teruah, shevarim, and tekiah will be sounded, and with them, the “the earth will shake,” and this will be in the “end of days,” and all these miracles will be in the Land of Israel, for there is located Hebron where the Patriarchs are buried” (see Tikunei Zohar 13:28b).
Real Stories from the Holy Land:
“On my way to Hebron, I was waiting for the mini-van designated by the Jewish Community of Hebron to take people to Hebron. Meanwhile, one person stopped to take me, although I made no sign that I was seeking a ride. In appreciation of this kind overture, I felt I should not refuse their offer even though I planned to take the designated ride straight to my destination. Afterward, I inquired why it seemed that the mini-van was late. It “turns out” that the mini-van took a different route that day than usual, and therefore I would not have found that mini-van that day where I had expected…” (M.A.)