Acharei Mot - Aaron; Kedoshim - hechshers

Due to the gap between the Parasha reading in Israel and the one abroad, articles for both parashot are published below:

Torah Mitzion Torani Tzioni Movement

Judaism goji berries
goji berries


Among this week’s Shabbat Torah reading of Parashat Acharei Mot is the opening topic – The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the Temple service, the fast, and the essence of the day.  
 By Shlomo H. Pick
Beit HaMidrash, Ludwig and Erica Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studies, 
Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel


The opening verses of chapter 16 are:

The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they drew too close to the presence of the LORD. The LORD said to Moses: Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come at will into the Shrine behind the curtain, in front of the cover that is upon the ark, lest he die; for I appear in the cloud over the cover. Thus only shall Aaron enter the Shrine: with a bull of the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.— He shall be dressed in a sacral linen tunic, with linen breeches next to his flesh, and be girt with a linen sash, and he shall wear a linen turban. They are sacral vestments; he shall bathe his body in water and then put them on.…

Most commentators understood these verses as referring to the Day of Atonement, the one day of the year when the High Priest can enter the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle or the Temple. These verses present the prerequisites for entering this most holy of sites on one of the holiest of days of the Jewish calendar. Accordingly, the Rabbis had to say that verse 23: “And Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there” is not in its proper place because of the tradition that the High Priest must undergo five immersions in a Mikvah during the service of this day.  Accordingly, only Moses whenever called by God, or the High Priest on Yom Kippur could enter the Holy of Holies.

However, there is one commentator who explained this chapter with a novel approach. The Vilna Gaon viewed this chapter as referring to Aaron the High Priest and not any of his successors.  Whereas Moses could enter the Tabernacle and the Holy of Holies whenever God called him, Aaron could enter throughout the year by means of the procedure formulated in our Parashah.  Since his entering the Holy of Holies was not limited to the Day of Atonement, there was no need for the Mussafofferings which were unique to Yom Kippur, nor five immersions, and, hence, one can read the chapter without transposing any verses. Only when this chapter is rerouted to refer to the Day of Atonement, and includes additional sacrifices with five immersions, does this verse become out of place.
According to the Vilna Gaon, this chapter originally referred to Aaron throughout the year during his lifetime, and he had a license to enter the Holy of Holies whenever he wanted by the procedure outlined in this chapter of Leviticus. The chapter was also interpreted to be referring to the Day of Atonement, and, thus, the license to enter the Holy of Holies was limited to this special day of the year and on that day, even Aaron had to follow the procedure as interpreted by the Rabbis.
Accordingly, there are three categories of persons who could enter the Holy of Holies: Moses whenever necessary, Aaron whenever he wanted to, and High Priests, including Aaron, on the Day of Atonement. One should note that at the beginning of this chapter, Yom Kippur nor any date is mentioned at all. Only at the end of the chapter, in verse 29, is the date of Yom Kippur mentioned.
At this point, I would like to add a point made by Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt”l. Why did the High Priest have to be separated seven days before the Day of Atonement? This is derived from the seven day period (miluim) before the inauguration of the Tabernacle on the eighth day. Thus, the Rav learned that:
...OnYom Kippur, he [= the High Priest] was not just a High Priest; rather, he was a replica of Aaron the Priest. On Yom Kippur, we require that Aaron the Priest personally perform the Temple service. Thus, the High Priest replaces Aaron. Accordingly, he is required to be invested with the sanctity of Aaron, which can only obtained by replicating the ritual of the miluim, during which Aaron himself was endowed with the sanctity of the High."
Within the framework of the Vilna Gaon’s explanation, there are now only two persons who can enter the Holy of Holies: Moses and Aaron. The Rav inferred that the license to enter the Holy of Holies was not granted to any High Priest, but to Aaron personally. Therefore, the High Priest on Yom Kippur, must actually replace Aaron in order to gain entry into the Holy of Holies.

To summarize: Most commentators view this chapter as referring to Yom Kippur. Consequently, Moses could enter the Holy of Holies whenever necessary while Aaron and all his successors could enter only on the Day of Atonement. According to the Vilna Gaon, there are three categories of persons who could enter the Holy of Holies: Moses whenever necessary, Aaron whenever he wanted to, and High Priest only on the Day of Atonement, the latter two having to follow this procedure in order to gain entry. According to Rav Soloveitchik, there are only two persons who could enter the Holy of Holies: Moses and Aaron, since succeeding High Priests in effect become a replica of Aaron.

Comments to:

Parashat Kedoshim - Orlah and Goji Berries

 By Rabbi Moshe Bloom

Former Rosh Kollel (Warsaw, 2013-17)
Currently Head of the English department at Machon HaTorah Ve'Haaretz, the Institute for Torah and the Land of Israel

". "וְכִי תָבֹאוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ, וּנְטַעְתֶּם כָּל עֵץ מַאֲכָל וַעֲרַלְתֶּם עָרְלָתוֹ, אֶת פִּרְיוֹ; שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים, יִהְיֶה לָכֶם עֲרֵלִים לֹא יֵאָכֵל

91:23).Vayikra"When you enter the land and plant any tree for food, you shall regard its fruit as forbidden; three years it shall be forbidden for you, not to be eaten" (

While the prohibition of orlah is well known, most are not aware of the many details involved. Orlah is relevant to those growing trees in their yards (and even inside their homes) and to those who buy fruit in the open market and elsewhere.

A goji berry plant growing in Shavei Darom, one of the experiments at Torah VeHa'aretz Institute.
Photograph by: Agronomist Yehuda Heller.


What is a Goji Berry?

The goji berry plant (Lycium barbarum) is a perennial bush, which generally reaches 1-3 m high, originating from Southeast Asia. It blooms in the summer (June to September) and its fruit somewhat resembles a strawberry and a cherry tomato, growing to the small size of 1-2 cm long. The goji berry is considered a super food (while some are doubtful about this). It is rich in Vitamin C and other vitamins, various amino acids, antioxidants and has additional health benefits. Until just a few years ago, dried goji berries were imported from the Far East and sold at an expensive price in Israel.
In recent years, Israeli farmers began growing the goji berry locally in order to sell it fresh (at a higher price, of course). The farmers turned to the Chief Rabbinate, and Rabbi Yizchak Yosef, the Sephardic chief rabbi, in turn, contacted Torah VeHa'aretz Institute with the question: is the goji berry subject to orlah laws?

Trees vs. Vegetables

Classifying a plant as a tree as opposed to a vegetable (a "bush" is not a distinct halachic category) relates to several areas of halacha:

1. The blessing: ha'eitz or ha'adama (although in this case, when there is a doubt we say ha'adama, which, bedi'avad, also covers trees).

2. Kilei zera'im: the prohibition against interplanting different species of seeds. The prohibition applies to vegetables but not to trees.

3. Kilei hakerem: interplanting with vineyards. The prohibition applies to vegetables but not to trees.

4. Blessing over pleasant scents: either borei atzei besamim or borei isbei besamim.

5. Blessing over the trees (birkat ha'ilanot)

6. Orlah

It is abundantly clear that a date palm is a tree and a cucumber is a vegetable. But what is the precise definition that distinguishes trees from vegetables?
A tree is a perennial plant that grows new branches from its trunk (above the ground) and not from its roots. This is a general halachic definition found in the Gemara and Rishonim. It is for this reason that bananas, for instance, are considered vegetables since new banana shoots grow from the roots.

The Radbaz's Chidush

The Radbaz, Rabbi David Ibn Zimra (1479-1589), made Aliya from Egypt and was astounded by what he saw. G-d fearing Jews were eating ברינגא"ן, a type of eggplant that the Radbaz had believed was possibly orlah, which would be prohibited in the Land of Israel like any safek issur de'oraita. In this context, he writes the following innovation in the classification of plants:
When I made Aliya to the Land of Israel, I saw that everyone was eating [this eggplant], which means they had no doubt that it was a vegetable. In the case of doubt they should have been stringent, since we are stringent regarding biblical prohibitions [and orlah is a biblical prohibition in the Land of Israel]. [Even though, according to the usual halachic parameters, the eggplant would be considered a tree, since it is perennial and grows new branches from the trunk,] I had an innovation [which no other posek mentions] as to a different feature distinguishing vegetables from trees: a plant is not a tree if once its seed is planted, it produces fruit in less than a year. For this reason the eggplant is a vegetable, since it bears fruit in less than a year from the time it is planted.. (Responsa Radbaz vol. 3, §531)

That is, a plant that bear fruit in less than a year from the moment the seed is planted is considered a vegetable and not a tree. Most of the Sephardi poskim follow this ruling, including the Ben Ish Chai and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Most Ashkenazi poskim, however, do not accept the Radbaz's chidush.

What is the current situation in Israel?

To test whether or not the goji berry plant is a vegetable, we planted it in our agricultural experiment plot. Indeed, it bore fruit in less than a year. Following our experiment, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef issued a ruling that the goji berry is a vegetable.
Today, stores with a standard kashrut certification rely on this heter and sell fresh goji berries. But stores with mehadrin certification do not rely on the heter (if goji berries might be orlah, then it would be prohibited to eat and even receive benefit from selling them – issur hana'ah!). This is why such stores do not sell fresh goji berries today.
Most goji berries sold in health food stores are dried and imported from abroad. When there is a doubt about orlah grown outside the Land of Israel, the fruit is permitted. So dried goji berries are permitted, even to those who are stringent about eating mehadrin kashrut.