Kedoshim -No Appreciation ‘Till He’s Away

There is a poignant connection between this week’s Torah portion of Kedoshim and its haftorah. Yechezkel reprimands his generation right before the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash of all the indiscretions they are transgressing, most of them being mitzvos listed in this week’s portion. The climax of it all being stealing, which sealed their fate. In fact, Rashi says that stealing is the worst sin of all (see Rashi Yechezkel 22:13). The exact translation of Rashi is “over your dishonest gain: Here we learn that robbery is more severe than all of them, for their verdict was sealed because of it.” Why in fact is stealing worse than, say lashon hara, disgracing your parents, profaning Shabbos or even murder, incest, or idolatry? The Malbim elaborates along the same lines of Rashi and will ultimately answer the question. The Malbim says the reason why there was a heavenly decree for Nevuchadnetzar to conquer Yerushalayim was not because of idolatry or adultery, but because of the oppression each person caused each other, just like it writes by the generation of the flood that their judgement was sealed because of stealing, as I explained there. There, by Noah and the flood, the Malbim elaborates [Breishis 6:13] the generation deserved to be destroyed either based on natural laws or Divine laws, and this destruction applied to each individual not just society as a whole but the fact that the Torah says that the world was full of hamas, which refers to thievery, that is a breakdown of the laws of politeness, which connects everyone together as one unit, helping each other and protecting the laws needed to maintain society, by stealing, and engaging in usury, they destroyed this moral fabric of society. For this reason the general end of mankind came into fruition in the days of the flood. For this reason as well, the final decree of exile was sentenced on the Jews by the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
 The Haftorah concludes, “Will your heart endure, will your hands be strong, in the days in the days when I shall deal with you? I am Hashem; I have spoken and I shall carry it out. I will scatter you among the nations and disperse you among the lands; and I will eliminate your contamination from you. You will be forced to be an inheritance for yourself before the eyes of the nations; then you will know that I am Hashem” (Yechezkel 22:14-16). The Radak explains that the prophet Yechezkel goes on to send a message from Hashem that the Jewish people will have much difficulty withstanding all the pain and suffering wrought upon them in the days of suffering to come, and “I will do this just as I said, so too will I do because I am Hashem and it’s within my ability.” The Radak says that the elimination of contamination refers to idolatry which is the greatest contamination in exile. The Jews didn’t really partake in idol worship, the 70 years they were in Babylonian exile. In fact, the gemaras in Yoma 69b and Sanhedrin 64a say that towards the beginning of the 2nd Beis Hamikdash Ezra and the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah got rid of the yetzer hara, evil desire, for idolatry.

In the concluding pasuk of the haftorah the Radak says “you will be forced to inherit yourself” for until now you were my inheritance (heritage) and from now on you will not be my inheritance. “Before the eyes of the gentiles,” they will see that you are not considered my inheritance while you are in exile amongst them, then you will know and recognize that I am Hashem, because now you forgot about me, and then when all the terrible things that I said through my prophets will happen to you, then you will know that I am Hashem who says and does, decrees and performs. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
 Being an “inheritance ” implies being something precious and dear, an heirloom, an item of endearment, personalized for the one who has it. It is implicit from the Radak that only after the Jews are exiled and realize they are all alone, abandoned by Hashem, to the point that they feel everyone realizes the same thing, will they finally recognize that Hashem means business and Hashem is the All-Powerful G-D in charge of everything. Why couldn’t they realize that all the prophecies are coming true and the curses in the Torah are unfolding before their very eyes when they were still living in Israel being besieged by Babylonian king Nevuchadnetzar and his general Nevudrazzan, starving them to death, and eventually killing 100,000s of men women and children before destroying the Beis Hamikdash and driving almost everyone else into exile? Why only once they were in exile, and the gentiles saw that Jews were all alone bereft of their G-D, only then would the Jews realize that Hashem is orchestrating all this pain and destruction in order so that they will repent and seek Him out?

It would seem that it is very hard for a person to really realize what they are missing until they are actually missing it. Meaning even though all the signs were there that they were doing the wrong thing and ignoring Hashem, but as long as they were still in Israel and Hashem hadn’t fully abandoned them, they were blinded to some degree from realizing all the wrong they were doing. Only after they were exiled and realized that Hashem left them all alone like lost sheep surrounded by a pack of wild wolves with their shepherd nowhere in sight did they realize the mistakes they had made. But Hashem didn’t disown his children, He just gave them total independence while they were in dangerous lands.

 It would seem that people have psychological dispositions as long as there is even a slight feeling of security, only once total helplessness and abandonment is felt then past and current errors are easier to be realized, even if there were so many blatant signs until now.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Dovid Shmuel Milder