Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky
Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky

Parshas Kedoshim - An Awesome Experience

The theme of morah (awe) appears throughout parshas Kedoshim. The parsha begins with the mitzvah of morah for parents. Later in the parsha we are commanded to treat the beis hamikdosh with the proper awe and respect. Following this mitzvah, we are taught how to properly respect Torah scholars; Chazal understood that we must also have morah for them (Pesachim 22b). We are told twice in parsha Kedoshim of our obligation of yiras Hashem. In addition, we are also instructed to act with awe and reverence towards a king (Kiddushin 32b based on Devarim 17:15).

What is the common denominator between talmedei chachamim, parents, kings, and the beis hamikdosh that requires us to relate to them with the same sense of awe with which we relate to Hashem?

During ma'amad Har Sinai, Moshe tells Bnei Yisroel why kabbolas haTorah had to happen in the manner that it did. Although the Torah could have been given without the awe-inspiring event of thunder, lightning and shofar blasts, yiras Hashem had to be instilled in Bnei Yisroel through their witnessing the presence of Hashem. Only the yiras Hashem attained through the Har Sinai experience could serve as a deterrent to cheit (Shemos 20:17).

The Har Sinai experience with the critical component of yiras Hashem had to be preserved for eternity. Therefore, the Torah set up several ways to ensure that this lesson of yiras Hashem would never be forgotten. One of the primary roles of parents is to transmit to their children the Har Sinai experience as they received it from their parents. That is, besides the obligation to teach the actual laws of the Torah to their children, parents are required to teach the lesson of yiras Hashem that Har Sinai instilled in their ancestors. The Torah explicitly states that this transmission will enable subsequent generations to attain the yiras Hashem that was reached at Har Sinai (Devarim 4:10).

The transmission of the Har Sinai experience is accomplished not only by parents but also by teachers. In earlier generations it was customary to study Torah standing to emphasize the awe and respect of its study, reminiscent of ma'amad Har Sinai. Although in later years this became too difficult, the reverence and awe must still be retained (Brachos 22a).

The transmission of Torah from teacher to student took place not only on an individual level, but on a national level as well. This occurred once every seven years when the king read the Torah at the communal gathering of hakheil. This event, which involved the entire Jewish people listening to the Torah, was reminiscent of ma'amad Har Sinai and helped keep that awesome event alive in the collective memory of the Jewish people. The only appropriate location for hakheil was the beis hamikdosh. The Ramban in the beginning of parshas Teruma elaborates on the role of the beis hamikdosh as being the eternal continuation of Har Sinai. The focal point of the beis hamikdosh was the kodesh hakodoshim which housed the luchos, thus serving as the constant reminder of the events of ma'amad Har Sinai.

The Torah employs these four ways of perpetuating the awe-inspiring event of mattan Torah. Remembering and reliving that experience should fill us with awe and trepidation so that we can begin to approach our reliving of Har Sinai in the proper frame of mind.

As we proceed from Pesach, when we first experienced "vayiru ha'am es Hashem" at krias Yam Suf, to Shavuos when we celebrate Mattan Torah which was given amidst thunder and lightning, let us focus on instilling in ourselves and our children the eternal message of yiras Hashem.

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