Kenneth Cohen

Precautions Before Spirituality

The question that is asked regarding Parshat Acharei Mot, is why the sons of Aharon are mentioned. The main topic is the Temple service of Yom Kippur, which has nothing to do with Aharon’s tragedy.

The Keli Yakar gives an explanation as to the connection between the two subjects. He first quotes Rashi who makes a comparison to a doctor that reminds his other patients what happens to someone who doesn’t take proper precautions regarding his health. He points to two individuals that gave their lives because of their carelessness.

This serves as a great introduction to Yom Kippur. The Kohein Hagadol was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies one day a year. He would greet the Shechina, the Divine Presence, on this sacred day.

If he did not take the proper precautions, and prepare himself mentally and spiritually, he could pay with his life. A rope was wrapped around him when he entered the Holy of Holies, in the event that he was unworthy.

The lesson here is that we are not supposed to seek spiritual shortcuts. People may find illegal ways to feel “high,” and mistakenly identify it as spirituality. Contrast this to one who devotes his life to Torah and Chessed. He goes through a gradual elevation, that is permanent and real.

The sons of Aharon may have had good intentions in their quest to feel Hashem’s closeness. But they went about it, in the wrong way. They paid with their lives, and, hopefully, the lesson learned from them, will not be forgotten.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at