Thursday, April 10, 2014

Acharei Mot 5774

And the L-rd spoke to Moshe (Moses) after the death of the two sons of Aharon (Aaron).”  (Vayikra/Leviticus 16:1)

Why does the verse state “after the death of Aharon’s two sons” when it could have said simply “the L-rd spoke”?

Rashi answers with a parable from Rabbi Elazar ben Aryeh about two doctors and a patient. “[The doctor] said to him, ‘Do not eat cold foods or lie down in a cold, damp place.’  Then another [doctor] visited him and advised, ‘Do not eat cold foods or lie down in a cold, damp place so you will not die the way so-and-so died.’ This one warned the patient more effectively than the former.” 

Explains Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein in A Shabbos Vort: “By alluding to someone who died as a result of not taking these precautions, the second doctor was more successful than the first at rousing the man to take care of himself.  This is why the verse states ‘after the death of Aharon’s two sons.’ It was in order to give Aharon an extra measure of motivation to keep the laws enumerated in this [week’s Torah] portion.”

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin in Growth Through Torah notes that Rashi provides an important lesson in effective communication. He writes: “It is not sufficient to convey to others abstract ideas and general warnings. Rather, we must try to add practical illustrations from everyday life describing the effects of negative behavior…Whenever appropriate, give examples of how others have lost out by engaging in unproductive behavior.” Rabbi Pliskin points out that in order to do so, we must make sure to carefully comply with the laws of lashon hara (negative speech). (For more on the laws of lashon hara, see    

As parents, it is our responsibility to warn our children to avoid potentially harmful behavior. We must explain to them what can happen to people who engage in dangerous activities. In the abstract, such warnings will have little effect. A concrete example, an account of a person our children know and can relate to, will make our warning memorable and will make our children more likely to heed our admonition.