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.
Faces of Holiness
“Speak to all of the congregation of the Children of Israel and tell them: You must be Holy” (19:2)
We often think of holiness as something that only a few exceptional individuals can aspire to. However, the fact that G-d gave this mitzvahto Moshe Rabbeinu in the form of "Speak to all the congregation..." teaches us that not only the exceptional among us is capable of holiness, but every one of us is commanded to be Holy. When the Torah was given on Mount Sinai, the Midrash, commenting on the verse "And all the people saw the voices", tells us "The Voice came out and was divided into many, many different voices, and everyone heard according to his strength". In other words, when one person heard "You shall not murder", he understood it to mean “Don't pick up your ax and murder!" While another understood "You shall not murder" to mean that if a dead body is found close to the outskirts of your town, you will be held responsible for not giving him sufficient protection, food and escort, as though you'd murdered him. To yet another it meant, don't embarrass someone in public, because when the blood drains from his face and he turns white, it is as though you had murdered him. Each person heard the Voice according to his own strength and unique talents, and similarly every Jew is expected to be holy on his level because he is an individual spark of the holiness of G‑d.
- Source: Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart.” (19:17)
One of the most difficult emotions to deal with is resentment.
Resentment can come from many different sources. It can result from someone genuinely wronging us. Or we may feel wronged by someone even though an objective third party would say that we were being over-sensitive. Resentment can come from plain old jealousy — someone who is brighter than us, or seems to have an easier life, or is more successful. Or resentment can come for no good reason at all. It may result from the way that someone speaks or dresses or expresses himself. As they say in the North of England “It’s the way he hangs his face.”
The spiritual masters teach that this is the worst kind of hatred. In Hebrew it is called Sinat Chinam, literally Free Hate. Hate that has comes from no injustice real or perceived — just the way someone is.
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart.”
In this week’s Parsha, the Torah categorically prohibits that gnawing worm called resentment.
The Torah says that we mustn’t feel resentment. But isn’t that more easily said than done? How are we supposed to put this into action?
First of all, we cannot work on our feelings until we understand them. This requires objectivity and the help of someone who is impartial to help us objectivize our emotions. Only when we can delineate our feelings will we have a chance of changing them.
If this analysis shows that we have been genuinely wronged, the proper mode of conduct will depend on the circumstances. It may involve a direct confrontation, or a rebuke from a third party, or legal recourse in Bet Din. When we act to deal positively with our resentment in one of these ways, the poison of the resentment is very often vitiated or extinguished.
However, there may be circumstances where a genuine grievance has no outside recourse, and we may just have to forgive and forget. In this last scenario (and in the others too) we should remember that it is G-d who runs the world and we should analyze why G-d has put us in our present situation.
As far as jealousy is concerned, we should remember that each of us is on our own separate “monorail” in life. The fact that someone else has something that I don’t have, be it brains or money or looks, in no way means that they are taking away from me. The root of jealousy is a lack of trust in G-d’s Providence. Each of us is born with unique capabilities with which to fulfill our potential in this world. If G-d hasn’t given me something, it’s because I don’t need it to complete my mission on this earth.
And as far as Sinat Chinam is concerned, we should remind ourselves that we are all created in G-d’s image. If there is something that I hate about my fellow for no objective reason whatever — just because it’s the ‘way he hangs his face’ — it means that I am despising the image of G-d Himself.
However, if we look carefully with a positive eye at those whom we resent and try to divorce our egos from our emotions, we might begin to see all kinds of positive traits that they possess.
It all depends on our I-sight.