Parshat Acharei Mot
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.
Dedicated Followers of Fashion
“And he (Aaron) will place the incense on the fire in front of G-d”. (16:13)
A famous writer once quipped, “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”
The width of trouser bottoms and their distance from the wearer’s navel fluctuates on a yearly basis, and the shape of the human foot seems to metamorphose inexorably. Fashion, however, doesn’t just begin and end with clothes.
“And he (Aaron) will place the incense on the fire in front of G-d”.
In the first part of the service of Yom Kippur in the Beit Hamikdash, the kohen gadol would burn incense in the Holy of Holies. The Tzadukim (Sadducees), who denied the authority of the Oral Torah, claimed that the incense first should be placed on the fire in a fire-pan outside the Holy of Holies and only then the kohen gadol should carry it inside. The Talmud (Yoma 53) cites the above Torah verse as a proof to the contrary — that the incense should only be placed on the fire “in front of G-d”.
In every generation, the Jewish People has its ‘Tzadukim’ — those dedicated followers of fashion who want to copy what they have seen ‘outside’ — to introduce ‘improvements’, ‘adjustments’ and ‘modernizations’ into our holy faith.
The Torah Sages of each generation fight a constant and bitter battle against these ‘improvements’. Which is not to say that the Torah is stuck in a bygone age. On the contrary, the Torah speaks to each generation on every aspect of life, sometimes involving itself in the finest minutiae of science to express the Halachic view of all that pertains to the modern world.
That view, however, is always extrapolated from the inward essence of the Torah outward, not grafted on from the outside. The Torah addresses the modern world not in terms of compromise or appeasement, not through pandering to the ideology of the hour; rather it views the world through intrinsic principles enshrined in immutable criteria.
- Sources: Based on Hadrash V’Ha’Iyun