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Parsha Mitzvot: Acharei Mot: Mitzvah 192 & 196 – Concept 141-142

“The nakedness of your sister, whether your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether born to one who may remain in the home or born to one who must remain outside of it, you shall not uncover their nakedness (Vayikra 18:9).” The nakedness of your father’s wife’s daughter who was born to your father, she is your sister; you shall not uncover her nakedness (Verse 11).” A man may not have relations with his sister of the same father or the same mother. A man may not have relations with his father’s wife’s daughter [same father] (Rambam, Hilchot Issurei Bi’ah – The Laws of Forbidden Relationships).


“Moses heard the people weeping in their family groups (Bamidbar 11:10).” According to the Sages, the word families alludes to the underlying reason for their complaints: They were frustrated by the family laws that regulated permissible relationships (Rashi). My Rebbi, HaRav Yochanan Zweig shlit”a, explained that the people were frightened of marrying “strangers,” people with whom they were unfamiliar. They wanted to only marry people who shared their lives, so they could continue as they were. A real marriage demands expanding one’s life, allowing new views and perspectives.

When my father zt”l was teaching us the Six Hundred and Thirteen Mitzvot at the Shabbat table and said, “You may not marry your sister,” ‘that’ sister and I argued over who could say more “yuk” than the other.

Our father was not pleased, “Are you ever going to get married,” he asked. “I guess,” I answered. “What will you marry,” he asked. “A girl,” I answered. “How many girls do you know?” “None!”

“None” he asked, “what about your sister?”

“She’s not a girl; she’s a sister!”

“A sister is a girl! Everything you know about girls, you know from your sisters.”

“That’s scary!”

“What’s scarier,” he asked, “a girl, or a girl like your sister?”

“A girl, for sure.”

“That’s why the Torah has to tell you that you can’t marry your sister! You can’t measure all girls by your sisters; they won’t match up!”

Well, he hadn’t yet met Debbie!

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