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The Crown of Halacha

Aharai Mos 5776 – One or the Other

One or the Other

You shall not defile yourselves by any of these things, for the nations, whom I am sending away from before you, have defiled themselves with all these things. (Vayikra 18:24)

The Ohr Hachaim asks two questions:

  • Why is it written “any of these things” and not “any ONE of these things” which would be much clearer?
  • Why is it written “have defiled themselves with all these things” – did every non-Jew defile themselves in every possible way?

The Ohr Hachaim answers that Hashem did not write “any ONE of these things”in order to teach us to equate each transgression as equally bad. Adding the word “ONE” would lead us to think that the transgression of the commandments may vary in severity. Although the punishments for certain sins are harsher than others, all transgressions are equal in the sense that they turn us away from God. Furthermore, each transgression carries the potential to cause us to eventually transgress the entire Torah. This is why it is written “in every possible way” – we do not know which transgression will lead us completely off the path of Torah.

The Ohr Hachaim adds that just like we do not know the exact reward for each mitzvah so too we do not know the exact punishment for each transgression. Accordingly, a wicked person may be living a life of wealth and pleasure because he has done a mitzvah which brings him a reward in this world and a transgression that can be punished fittingly only in the world to come.

Concerning the mitzvoth, it is well known, the Ohr Hachaim continues, that even though each mitzvah has its own segulah (blessings of a long life, prosperity, children, or health) we are not privileged to know the reward of each mitzvah. This is in order that each one should be equal in our eyes otherwise, people will only do the mitzvahs that they think are best for them and neglect the others.

He concludes that every mitzvah has a part in bringing a tikun to ourselves and for Am Yisrael. With each mitzvah, we do the Geulais hastened, and we must not underestimate the power of any single one. As Shlomo Hamelech said, “All that comes to your hand do with all your strength.” (Koheles 10:9).

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