Parshat Acharei Mot - Kedoshim
G-d instructs the kohanim to exercise extreme care when they enter the Mishkan. On Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol is to approach the holiest part of the Mishkan after special preparations and wearing special clothing. He brings offerings unique to Yom Kippur, including two identical goats that are designated by lottery. One is "for G-d" and is offered in the Temple, while the other is "for Azazel" in the desert. The Torah states the individual's obligations on Yom Kippur: On the 10th day of the seventh month, one must afflict oneself. We abstain from eating and drinking, anointing, wearing leather footwear, washing, and marital relations.
Consumption of blood is prohibited. The blood of slaughtered birds and undomesticated beasts must be covered. The people are warned against engaging in the wicked practices that were common in Egypt. Incest is defined and prohibited. Marital relations are forbidden during a woman's monthly cycle. Homosexuality, bestiality and child sacrifice are prohibited.
The nation is enjoined to be holy. Many prohibitions and positive commandments are taught:
Prohibitions: Idolatry; eating offerings after their time-limit; theft and robbery; denial of theft; false oaths; retention of someone's property; delaying payment to an employee; hating or cursing a fellow Jew (especially one's parents); gossip; placing physical and spiritual stumbling blocks; perversion of justice; inaction when others are in danger; embarrassing; revenge; bearing a grudge; cross-breeding; wearing a garment of wool and linen; harvesting a tree during its first three years; gluttony and intoxication; witchcraft; shaving the beard and sideburns; tattooing.
Positive: Awe for parents and respect for the elderly; leaving part of the harvest for the poor; loving others (especially a convert); eating in Jerusalem the fruits from a tree's 4th year; awe for the Temple; respect for Torah scholars, the blind and the deaf.
G-d’s Waiting Room
"When you shall come to the Land and you shall plant any food tree, you shall treat its fruit as forbidden; for three years it will be forbidden to you." (19:23)
With macabre humor, Miami Beachis called "G-d’s waiting room" because it abounds with retirement homes and hotels for the elderly.
Retirement is a western concept, and one that has come under criticism from doctors in recent years. Studies have found that people who don’t retire but stay involved in their work (albeit at a level that befits their age) have longer life expectancies than those who retire and relax into their "golden years".
My father, who passed away well into his ninety-third year, was a person who worked hard throughout his life and never retired. Every morning he would still go into the office and do his work. He went in later and came back earlier, but he still kept his life’s routine.
Our Sages teach that G-d conceals our time of death from us so that we should remain active to the last.
The Roman Emperor Hadrian was once passing through the city of Tiberiasin Eretz Yisrael. He noticed an elderly man exerting himself, tilling the soil around his fig trees.
"Saba! (Grandfather) Saba!" called out Hadrian, "Why are you working so hard? When you were young you had to toil to make a living, but now it’s time to relax. Anyway, you will never live to enjoy the fruits of your labors."
The old man replied, "My task is to try and accomplish whatever my age allows. The Almighty will do as He sees fit."
"Tell me, please, Saba, how old are you?"
"I am a hundred years old."
"A hundred years old! And you actually expect to reap what you sow?"
"If I merit to eat the fruit of my labors, well and good. If not, my efforts will benefit my children just as I have benefited from the toil of my forbears."
Hadrian said, "Hear me, Saba! If you ever eat these figs that you are planting you must surely come and let me know."
In due course, the figs ripened and abounded with fruits. The old man thought to himself, "I must go and tell the emperor."
He filled a basket with figs and traveled to the palace.
"The Emperor wishes to see me," he announced to the guards and they led him before the Hadrian’s throne.
"Who are you?" asked Hadrian.
"Does the emperor remember years ago in Tiberias passing by an old man tending his figs? G-d has granted me to eat of those figs that I planted. I have brought the emperor a basketful as a gift."
Hadrian turned to his servants. "Take the figs from this elderly man and refill his basket with gold coins."
His courtiers questioned the emperor’s generosity, "Why such a lavish gift for an old Jew?" Hadrian replied to them, "His Creator honored him with longevity. Is it not proper that I too should accord him honor?"
The Creator does not want us to sit and read the newspapers in G-d’s waiting room.
- Source: Vayikra Rabba 25:5