Weekly Parsha Review Laced with Humor and Sarcasm from The Oisvorfer Ruv

Achrei-Mois Kidoishim 2021: Cut-Off


According to Merriam-Webster, and who knows more words than did they and later he alone, the verb “cut off” has five definitions. Let’s read them.

1: to bring to an untimely end;
2: to stop the passage of,   cut off communications
3: SHUT OFF and or, BAR–  the river cut off their retreat;
4: DISCONTINUETERMINATE  cut off a subscription;
5: SEPARATEISOLATE cut herself off from her family;
6: DISINHERIT threatened to cut him off without a penny;
7a: to stop the operation of TURN OFF cut off the engine;
to stop or interrupt while in communication the operator cut me off

The bottom line: any which way it’s used, being cut off is not a good thing! We will be discussing the concept of being cut-off this week. Why? Davka because several times in our parsha (and in others), the RBSO threatens to cut certain people off. Let’s begin by reading Posik 29 in Perek 18 wherein the RBSO says azoy:

29 For anyone who commits any of these abominations, the persons doing so shall be cut off from the midst of their people. כטכִּ֚י כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר יַֽעֲשֶׂ֔ה מִכֹּ֥ל הַתּֽוֹעֵבֹ֖ת הָאֵ֑לֶּה וְנִכְרְת֛וּ הַנְּפָשׁ֥וֹת הָֽעֹשׂ֖ת מִקֶּ֥רֶב עַמָּֽם:

What we know so far: The Hebrew term korase (“cutting off”) כָּרֵת‎, is a form of punishment for sins, mentioned in the heylige Toirah and later more extensively in the Mishneh and heylige Gemora. And if that weren’t enough -seemingly it wasn’t- many an exegete weighed in with their own meanings of what it was, who got it, why and when. The word korase is also known as koris.

29. For anyone who commits any of these abominations, the persons doing so shall be cut off from the midst of their people. כטכִּ֚י כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר יַֽעֲשֶׂ֔ה מִכֹּ֥ל הַתּֽוֹעֵבֹ֖ת הָאֵ֑לֶּה וְנִכְרְת֛וּ הַנְּפָשׁ֥וֹת הָֽעֹשׂ֖ת מִקֶּ֥רֶב עַמָּֽם:

What we know so far: The Hebrew term korase (“cutting off”) כָּרֵת‎, is a form of punishment for sins, mentioned in the heylige Toirah and later more extensively in the Mishneh and heylige Gemora. And if that weren’t enough -seemingly it wasn’t- many an exegete weighed in with their own meanings of what it was, who got it, why and when. The word korase is also known as koris.

Shoin another parsha – this week two- as the heylige Toirah features back-to-back springtime double headers, and guess what? Plenty of sex talk in both to enjoy. Grada, it’s punkt farkert as all the sex talk is about forbidden relationships. Enjoying a forbidden relationship gets one koris. Included in the list of the verboten, is having sex with one’s sister-in-law, no matter how hot. And now hear this: After Yaakov Ovenu, mamish the one forefather from whom spouted forth the entire Klal Yisroel (the Jewish nation) married two sisters, and let’s not forget the two other half-sisters, making a total of four, and had relations and children from all four, along comes the RBSO and tells us that one cannot marry his own sister-in-law? What’s pshat? Are we not taught to emulate the ways of our forefathers? We are? Why taka did the RBSO decide to outlaw a marriage of two sisters? Were Yaakov’s marriages bad? Did he only love Rochel and secretly or even openly hate the others? Did he, in addition to asking the RBSO for illness to befall him in order that he not die suddenly, also ask Him to change the law and forbid the marriage of two sisters and a few others? We will circle back to Yaakov in a few months. And if bedding your sister-in-law suddenly became verboten, wait until you read the rest of the list. Shoin, just like that, sexual intercourse also become ‘osur’ (prohibited) with one’s mother (who would  entertain such a thought), with one’s father’s wife (more easily understood), with animals, with one’s rebbe in yeshiva, and the list goes on. Shoin, since we shouted out Yaakov and his four wives, let’s spend a moment and read the one posik which strictly outlaws such future relationships Says the heylige Toirah (Vayikro 18:18) azoy:

18. And you shall not take a woman with her sister [in marriage] as rivals, to uncover the nakedness of one upon the other, in her lifetime.   יחוְאִשָּׁ֥ה אֶל־אֲחֹתָ֖הּ לֹ֣א תִקָּ֑ח לִצְרֹ֗ר לְגַלּ֧וֹת עֶרְוָתָ֛הּ עָלֶ֖יהָ בְּחַיֶּֽיהָ:
The posik above was the warning; the one below (Vayikro 20:17) describes the consequences.


17.  And a man who takes his sister, whether his father’s daughter or his mother’s daughter, and he sees her nakedness, and she sees his nakedness it is a disgraceful act, and they shall be cut off before the eyes of the members of their people; he uncovered his sister’s nakedness; he shall bear his sin.   יזוְאִ֣ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־יִקַּ֣ח אֶת־אֲחֹת֡וֹ בַּת־אָבִ֣יו אֽוֹ־בַת־אִ֠מּ֠וֹ וְרָאָ֨ה אֶת־עֶרְוָתָ֜הּ וְהִֽיא־תִרְאֶ֤ה אֶת־עֶרְוָתוֹ֙ חֶ֣סֶד ה֔וּא וְנִ֨כְרְת֔וּ לְעֵינֵ֖י בְּנֵ֣י עַמָּ֑ם עֶרְוַ֧ת אֲחֹת֛וֹ גִּלָּ֖ה עֲו‍ֹנ֥וֹ יִשָּֽׂא:

Posik 18 in Perek 18 in Achrei-Mois was the warning, while Posik 17 from Vayikro 20:17 in Parshas Kedoishim  describes the consequences.

In any event before we share the list of forbidden relationships (sexual avada), the RBSO tells us that should one violate, that person (and the person one violated with) are both to be punished with “Koris.” Ober what the hec is Koris, also known as korase or korath in English? Does the heylige Toirah give us any more information than what’s written? Does it tell us what koris is? It does not. It does tell us that the person or persons will be cut-off but which definition fits? And once again, because the Toirah left us guessing, it fell to exegetes of future generations to figure out what this punishment was, and how it was meted out. And guess what? They have differing views. Which view is correct? Any? All?

Growing up and following an aliya to the Toirah, I would often hear people donating “chai dollars” to the shul. Back then, hearing the magical chai dollars, I assumed the person to be a millionaire. Once in a blue moon, I also heard -in Yiddish of course- “tzvei mul chai (two times chai), the equivalent of a $36 dollar donation. Thirty-six was a big number. Ober, what has all that math to do with this week’s parshas of Achrei Mois and Kedoishim? And the answer is azoy: the number 36 is seemingly a full list of the verboten relationship and other misdeeds one violates to get onto the RBSO’s cut-off list. A great number of sins that make up the not so holy 36, are found in this week’s parshas which tells us that a number of sexual relations are now forbidden. 15 of them entail forbidden sexual misdeeds. Shoin!

Would the Yiddin have uttered -in unison- the words na’seh v’nishma (we shall do and we shall listen) had they known of the coming restrictions? Ver veyst? In any event, the RBSO tells us azoy: Violate those -seemingly, any of them-  and you are to be punished with something called koris. He will cut you off. What is koris? We don’t know yet but we know it rhymes with tzuris; both not good. We shall cover this topic below, ober since we mentioned forbidden relations and the list of 36 which bring with them some form of koris, let’s quickly mention the list. The heylige Mishneh (Kirisus 1:1) lists them.

  1. Sexual intercourse with one’s mother
  2. Sexual intercourse with one’s father’s wife
  3. Sexual intercourse with one’s son’s wife
  4. A male having sexual intercourse with another male
  5. A male having sexual intercourse with an animal
  6. A female having sexual intercourse with an animal
  7. Having sexual intercourse with both a mother and her daughter within the span of his lifetime
  8. Sexual intercourse with a married woman
  9. Sexual intercourse with one’s sister
  10. Sexual intercourse with one’s father’s sister
  11. Sexual intercourse with one’s mother’s sister
  12. Sexual intercourse with the sister of one’s wife
  13. Sexual intercourse with one’s brother’s wife
  14. Sexual intercourse with the wife of one’s father’s brother
  15. Sexual intercourse with a menstruating woman, known as a niddah
  16. Cursing God using the Tetragrammaton, known as megadef (מגדף))
  17. Worshiping a deity other than God, known as Avodah Zarah(In Jewish law, idolatry is understood as implying an act that one does for another god and which is tantamount to what an Israelite would normally do for his own God, such as bowing down unto it, or sacrificing unto it, etc.)
  18. Delivering one’s child to Moloch
  19. Consulting with a spiritthrough a process known as ov (אוב)
  20. Violating the Shabbatby doing one of the 39 categories of activities prohibited on Shabbat
  21. Eating of an offering while in a state of ritual impurity, known as tumah
  22. Entering the temple or Tabernaclewhile in a state of ritual impurity, known as tumah
  23. Eating of a form of animal fat known as chelev(This prohibition applies only to the suetof domesticated animals, e.g. bullocks, sheep and goats, but not to the suet of wild game animals, such as deer, gazelles, and antelope)
  24. Eating or drinking blood (excluding the blood of fish)
  25. Eating of an offering after the allowable time for the eating of that offering has expired. An offering in this state is known as notar (נותר)
  26. Eating of an offering that was offered with the intention of eating of it after the allowable time for the eating of that offering has expired. Such an offering is known as pigul (פיגול)
  27. Slaughtering an animal offering outside the boundaries of the temple or Tabernacle
  28. Offering up an animal offering upon an altar outside the boundaries of the temple or Tabernacle
  29. Eating chametzon Passover
  30. Eating or drinking on Yom Kippur(applies to eating at least a date’s bulk of food within the space of 2–4 minutes)
  31. Violating Yom Kippurby doing one of the 39 categories of activities that are prohibited on Shabbat
  32. Creating a replication of the holy anointing oil(שמן המשחה) that was used for the anointment of high priests and kings of the house of David that was made by Moses, using the same ingredients and precise measurements, and creating it in the same volume as created by Moses
  33. Creating a replication of the incense offering, known as the Ketoret, using the same ingredients and precise measurements of the Ketoret
  34. Anointing oneself with the holy anointing oilthat was created by Moses
  35. Failure to bring the Passover offering (Koraseh, in this case, applies only to the person who is ritually pure, and not on a long journey, yet he still refuses to bring a Passover offering, in accordance with Numbers 9:9–13.)
  36. Failure to be circumcised

Shoin, now that you found yourself on the list, proceed directly to repentance. Does that help? We shall explore that below. Ober, we ask again, what is koris? Translated literally, it appears that koris (excision) is the biblical penalty for certain offenses. It means being ‘cut off from the people.’ Says the heylige Mishneh, azoy: koris is the punishment for the above mentioned 36 offenses. More bad news: where the offense is sexual intercourse, koris applies to both parties. This is no joke but still we ask azoy; what the hec is it? And that raboyseyee depends on which sage, Jewish philosopher,   or exegete talks to you. Let’s see what a few had to say. Before we answer, let’s recall that we just concluded the reading of Parshas Tazria and Metzoira wherein kimat the entirety of the parshas dealt with tzora’as and other emissions. We concluded that tzora’as was visited upon the metzoira by the RBSO Himself. It was a divine gift, or punishment, depending on which exegete’s pshat you liked. And we ask azoy: is koris similar to tzora’as in that it’s a divine message or punishment? How does it manifest? Is it permanent? Can it be postponed or even rescinded? Does it still exist in our times? Or, has it like other punishments described -to include tzora’as- been suspended temporarily? Let’s find out.

What sayeth Rashi who opines on kimat all matters? Kores means dying young and losing, or failing to have, progeny. Rashi writes this in his commentary to our parsha (Vayikro 17:9) and in several other places in his commentary to the heylige Gemora. In different places, Rashi sometimes says that korase means that you die young, sometimes that you have no progeny and sometimes both. Which is it? The simple resolution is that he means both but sometimes only mentions one aspect of it. Ober says the Abarbanel, that kores means dying after three days of illness. Yikes!


Says Rabaynu Yona (The Gates of Repentance), azoy: the heylige Toirah itself makes a distinction as to which form of korase is to be applied for a particular offense. Which kind? There are different kinds of kores? In most cases, the Toirah uses the term such as that in our parsha (18:29); the persons who commits them shall be cut off from among their people, which he says is a reference to a punishment in this world. It’s physical. However, when the heylige Toirah uses the term we find in Bamidbar (15:31), that person will be cut off completely, his offense will remain with him. What term is that? Says the heylige Toirah, azoy:

“Because he has spurned the word of the LORD and violated His commandment, that person shall be cut off—he bears his guilt.”

Who gets which koris? What sins bring eternal damnation? Says Rabbeinu Bachya (Rabbi Bachya ben Asher ibn Halawa 1255-1340 (not to be confused with Rabbi Bachya ben Joseph ibn Paquda, author of Duties of the Heart, who lived earlier, in the first half of the eleventh century), azoy: there are three types of korase: one affects the body only, one affects only the soul, and another, affects both.

The first category of korase, which affects only the body, applies primarily to otherwise righteous people who transgressed one of the serious transgressions related to korase such that they are cut off from this world through physical death, but their souls continue to exist and receive reward in the spiritual realm. How does this play out? Is a person rewarded with Oilom Habo (Paradise) even after being cut off? Even after illegal sexual activity? Is that emes? And if yes, is that not great news for some? Shoin, before you get all excited and willing to trade this world for the next, keep this in mind. Premature death can occur in two ways: by cutting off one’s years, or one’s days, depending on the age of the person when he committed the offense. Since korase is associated with dying before the age of sixty, korase of years would apply to someone younger than sixty and korase of days would apply to someone older. In either case the person does not reach the age that was designated or him. How many years were designated at the outset? Ver veyst?

By way of example, the heylige Gemora (Shabbis 13a) tells us azoy: a certain Talmudic scholar suffered premature death on account of being overly-familiar with his wife before she became fully ritually purified by immersing in a mikveh. In plain English: he seemingly had sex or at least touched her intimately before the mandated mikveh dip. Since he had no sin other than this breach, the korase was only a physical cutting off of years in this world. Yet, his soul was rewarded for his overall righteousness in the Soul World.

An example of the latter, korase of days, for an older person, is derived from another shtikel in the heylige Gemora (Moied Koton 28a) where Rav Yoisef made a kiddish upon attaining the age of sixty because he “outlived” the age of korase. His disciple Abaye countered that even after sixty, one’s life may be shortened due to korase of days. To this Rav Yoisef replied that since he left the realm of korase of years, that was reason enough to celebrate. As an aside, if by now you have concluded that the heylige Gemora discusses sex and violations quite a bit, you are correct. Of course, they were merely trying to make sense of the RBSO’s instructions in this week’s parshas, and in order to do so, they needed to go deep, if you chap, into these topics. Bottom line: pass your 60th in tact (still alive) and you are -according to some- out of the korase of years danger zone.

In another version, korase means that the offender will die childless. Let us recall one of the dozens of “AL cheyt’s we recite on Yom Kippur: ‘For the sins for which we are liable to the penalty of korase and childlessness.’ Which is it, ver veyst? And if you’re confused now, your head will soon  be spinning; we have much more below. Before we go veyter, let’s chazir: Regarding the 36 aforementioned violations,  the heylige Toirah states (Vayikro 7:14), “And that person shall be cut off from the midst of his people”. Since there is no reference to the soul being cut off, this means that his body dies but his soul seemingly merits going to the World of Souls and later experiencing Resurrection and the World-to-Come. OMG! Bottom line: violate and you’re cut off for now in this world.

The second category of korase, which affects only the soul, applies to someone whose transgressions are very numerous, and include the very severe sins for which one is liable for korase, such as adultery and incest. Now we’re talking! Since this person’s soul is so damaged, the korase is mainly spiritual and not necessarily physical, such that he might live long and tranquil years in this world. What? This pshat does further illuminate a posik in Koheles where we read (Ecc. 7:15), azoy; “There is a wicked man who lives long in his wickedness”. But when this person dies his soul leaves his body and is cut off from the Soul World and the World-to-Come. Regarding such sinners the Toirah states, “And that soul shall be cut off from its people,” where the specific mention of the term “soul” in this verse refers to spiritual korase. OMG! A onetime offender is domed to die early, yet live on in the Soul world,  ober, one who transgresses multiple times, gets to live out his years in tranquility? Let’s review that again: if the evil in him (that was inside of her, if you chap) outweighed the good, he is then granted a good and lengthy life to reward him for the good that he did in his life, but upon death, he will have no portion in the world to come. Did you just read those correctly? A person committing incest who is mamish a bad guy, can live a good and lengthy life; his punishment awaits him in the world to come where he seemingly won’t be coming to. Well, blow me down! Gishmak! But wait! There’s still more:

And then, there are really bad people (worse than those just above, if that’s possible) who fall into the third category of korase, which affects the body and the soul together, and is reserved for the most egregious offenders — those involved with idolatry and cursing the RBSO. The heylige Ois has told you over and again -over the past eleven years- that nothing angers the RBSO more the combination of forbidden sex when combined with avoido zoro, and zicher you will recall what befell the Yiddin who participated with the Moabite shiksas while also performing some dastardly acts which seemingly involved a form of weird  avoido zoro. Regarding these extremely severe transgressions the Toirah states (Bamidbar 15:31), “That soul shall surely be cut off”. The term “surely” is denoted by a two-fold mention of korase, “hikorase tikorase”, from which the heylige Gemora derives that hikorase refers to being cut off in this world and tikorase refers to being cut off in the World-to-Come. This then is the source for korase of the body and soul alike. Bottom line: best not to combine the two; illicit relationships might even get you oilom habo, ober the combo is dangerous.

Says the Riva, that korase means you die at the age of 50, or at least before 60. Additionally, those who violate the prohibitions of forbidden relations, about whom it is stated “aririm yihyu — they shall be childless”, die without progeny. Bottom line: it’s bad! The good news: says Toisfis citing the qualification of Rabbenu Tam that only children who are minors can be punished for their parents’ sins. Dying childless does not apply to children who are adults at the time of their parents’ sin.

Says the Ramban (Toiras Ha-Odom (Kisvei Ha-Ramban, vol. 2 pp. 288-290), summarizing others, azoy: someone who is generally good will be punished with a shortened life but no punishment in the afterlife. Someone who is generally bad will be punished only in the afterlife, meaning punishment and then destruction of the soul. And someone who worships idols or curses God will be punished with both a shortened life and punishment (and afterwards destruction) in the afterlife.

And says the Abarbanel that korase is always punished with death before the time one would otherwise die and suffering in the afterlife. The good news: suffering in the afterlife is limited to a prescribed amount of time, depending on the depth of one’s sin, after which one receives the good of the afterlife.

The bottom line: adequate coverage of this topic requires many more pages and paragraphs; those are beyond the scope of this review. Avada you should feel free to learn more on your own. It won’t kill you and will likely keep most of you out of trouble. And the real bottom line: medieval philosophers endeavored to explain how the penalty of korase fit into the scheme of divine providence. Each had his own opinion, ober which among the many ideas is correct? Ver veyst? We don’t know because the RBSO did not tell us and if He decided not to share details, it’s none of out business. If you want to ask Him in person, violate one or more of the 36; you may get the opportunity.

Ober what to do if one has violated one of the 36 at least once and in certain cases and people, over and again if you chap, which seemingly they did illegally? Are they doomed? Is there a way out? Not to fret: the RBSO, so the rabbis teach us, also gave us the korase-loophole. Avada, this makes perfect sense as just about everything in our beautiful religion comes with a loophole. We are taught that Korase is applicable only when the transgression was done ‘bimayzid’ (intentionally). That’s but one half of the loophole, this one comes with two parts and both must be met to avoid korase. Ready for part two? Shoin, to avoid korase after one or more of the forbidden sexual acts found in our parshas (and to also include any on the list of 36) one must repent and properly so. Ober, how can – you must be klerring – one accidentally bed his sister-in law, mother-in-law, and all others on the list? Is that even shayich? How can one have accidental bishoigeg forbidden sex with a person or animal without planning? Limoshol, if you were married to a twin who happened to be visiting or even babysitting. They look alike mamish, and shoin. You come home and before you know it, you’ve reenacted the Rochel Leah trick where you thought you were bedding one and shoin, you bedded the other. Bottom line: there are scenarios where one could have accidental (bi’shoigeg) forbidden relations (even with one’s own wife).

More good news: Says the Arizal, he the famous kabbalist with the coldest mikveh on planet earth, azoy: there is  a rectification ritual known as tikkun korase. How does it work and what to do? Does it entail going to mikubil and slipping him a few thousand in cash? Thankfully nor! “One who is awake all night and does not sleep at all, and immerses himself in the study of Toirah that entire night will exempt himself from one punishment of korase if, Heaven forbid, he has incurred it. Each night exempts one korase.”

Givaldig mamish! One night of all night-learning can rectify one violation of Koris. And that’s why Raboyseyee, Madonna and many others immerse themselves into the kabbolo. As an aside, Rav Chaim Vital, the foremost student of the Ari, and others provide additional detail on how to rectify one’s grave sins and possibly avoid korase.  The final bottom line is good news: seemingly there are steps by which one can recover from a korase  violation and decree. The RBSO in His magnificence does not seek your death; He desires your penance and return to His ways.

A gittin Shabbis-

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman

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