Parshat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim: The Calling of the Kohen Gadol
Rabbi Yoni and Shiran Dreyer are Straus-Amiel shlichim in Omaha, Nebraska, where Yoni is the deputy rabbi of the community and Shiran serves as an educator at the Friedel Jewish Academy
Our parsha opens with a description of the sacred service of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur. I would like to dwell upon an inspiring point which can be learned from this specific portion.
The story is told of a busy man whose five-year-old son does not give him a moment’s rest, disturbing him constantly while the poor man is trying to work. In a desperate attempt, the father tears off a map of the world which is hanging on the wall of his office, cuts it up into little pieces and tells his son to assemble the pieces and re-create the world map. Knowing full well that his son is hardly familiar with the location of the continents and that it will probably take him ages to put together the pieces in the right places, the father hopes to buy some precious moments to work… However, to his great surprise, the son comes back with the assembled puzzle after just a few minutes. Astonished, the man asks his son how he managed to put the pieces together so quickly. After all, says the father, you are not familiar with the world map!
To this, the son replies: True, I have no idea what the map of the world looks like, but on the reverse side of the map there was a drawing of a person, so I put the pieces together to form the illustration of the man. When I turned over the puzzle, I discovered I had restored the entire world as well!
In the description of the sacred service of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur, as is rendered in our portion, the Torah emphasizes that the Kohen must first make atonement for himself and his household and only then for the entire congregation of Israel. But would we not expect the Kohen Gadol – a messenger sent by the people – to put his own affairs aside and focus his attentions on the general public only? Should he not place the needs of others before his own? But apparently this is not the case, and there is an important lesson to be learned here:
When it comes to tikkun, rectification, putting right that which needs fixing – one must begin with oneself. Only once this is achieved can the individual focus on restoring the rest of the world.
Emissaries that embark on shlichut usually have big dreams and high aspirations: rectifying the world and achieving tikkun Olam. But when engaging in public service, one must first make sure to do one’s best in everything; to conduct oneself with humility of spirit and faith, and first and foremost – to hold oneself to the highest standards, making sure one’s conduct and that of his/her family are impeccable. This is true of all aspects of life.
Let us, then, begin by mending our own ways and, please God, others will follow suit. This is the lesson taught us by Aharon HaKohen – “…and he made atonement for himself and for his household and for the entire congregation of Israel.”
May we merit to do much good in this world.
The Jewish community of Omaha, Nebraska is a small and diverse one comprising a lovely group of good and happy people. Our role as emissaries is an intensive one, and includes a variety of responsibilities, ranging from work in the community to teaching in the Jewish school. We try to work as a family and to assist in any way we can. We always aim to add more light to the world.