Thursday, May 03, 2012

the kodesh kodashim within

R' Shimshon Dovid Pincus makes a simple but beautiful point on P' Acharei. The avodah of Yom Kippur done by the kohein gadol was the highlight of the year. You would think that maybe it should be done at Citi Field, Met Life Stadium, or maybe [substitute your local sports arena here]. But no -- the most intense avodah of the day, the offering of ketores, is done inside the kodesh kodashim with no one, not even a malach, present to observe! There is certainly a value to b'rov am hadras melech, but often times we assign too much weight to public displays of piety and lose sight of the fact that it's what happens in private, in the 4 amos of yours that no one but you and G-d can see, that can make all the difference in the world.

The truth is this idea is already found in the first sicha in Ohr Tzafun of the Alter of Slabodka, who takes it a step further. The Alter notes that given two people, one who is shuckling away while learning or davening, visibly involved in what he is doing, and one who is quiet and introverted, the natural tendency (except for those of us who ourselves are introverts) is to think the first person is more "into it" than the second. The knee-jerk assumption is based entirely on what we see on the outside but ignores what is going on in the kodesh kodashim inside.

The gemara (Nedarim 81) tells us that the Chachamim and Nevi'im could not figure out why the churban habayis was warranted until Hashem himself revealed that it was because people were lax in reciting birchas haTorah. The Ran explains that the lack of birchas haTorah demonstrated a lack of "lishma," of proper intent and motivation in learning. The Chachamim and Nevi'im, explains the Alter, saw all the learning taking place, saw the shmiras hamitzvos people had -- on the outside everything looked kosher. They could not see in the kodesh kodashim of people's hearts. But Hashem can see there, and Hashem judges us precisely on what no one else is aware of and no one else can see but ourselves.


  1. Anonymous8:43 PM

    Regarding the Isha Hashunamis's statement about Elisha: Ish Kadosh Hu, the gemora asks, Mina Yad'a?

    There is a story in the HaMe'oros HaGedolim about Reb Yisroel Salanter.
    Someone at a therapy resort received a telegram from a friend. In the telegram was the news that Reb Yisroel was at the same resort, and the request that he observe him and report on Reb Yisroel's extraordinary conduct.

    A day later, the person at the resort sent back the following report. I checked, and it turned out that he has been here already for a week. And the most extraordinary conduct is that - nobody had any idea who and how great he is.

    In our generation, there may be others, but Rav Pam zt"l comes to mind immediately.

  2. It seems to me that this goes back to Sinai. The first luchos were given with a large special effects budget and didn't last 40 days. The second were given one on one quietly and privately and have endured to this day.
    On Yom Kippur the Kohen Golden, dressed in gold, does much of the service of the day publicly but the important part that actually accomplishes the atonement is done quietly.
    Great is modesty.

  3. Anonymous12:35 PM

    has G-d Himself no respect for privacy? does He not leave some part of
    your mind & your heart that He could see, unseen?

  4. Anonymous8:21 PM

    >>> does He not leave some part of...mind &...heart...unseen?
    (comment 3)

    All COULD be foreseen, but free choice is given... Avos 3:19 (R' Akiva),
    a variation