Torah Weekly - Parshat Acharei Mot/Kedoshim

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Parshat Acharei Mot/Kedoshim

For the week ending 12 Iyar 5761 / May 4 & 5, 2001

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  • Acharei Mot
  • Kedoshim
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  • Eat, My Child!
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    Hashem 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 Hashem" 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.

    Family life must be holy. We are warned again not to imitate gentile behavior, lest we lose the Land of Israel. We must observe kashrut, thus maintaining our unique and separate status.




    "Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them 'You shall be holy -- for Holy am I, Hashem, Your G-d.' " (19:2)

    In "How I Became Fat," Alan Sherman recalls his mother urging him to eat. "Eat! Eat!" she would say, "People are starving in Asia!" Thus, as his patriotic duty to ease world hunger, he learned to clean his plate 4, 5, or 6 times a day...

    How many Jewish jokes are there about eating! The caricature Jewish mother complains continually that her offspring are dying of hunger in spite of the fact that their daily calorie intake would support a thoroughbred racehorse.

    Behind every joke lies a truth, however distorted. Judaism is unique in that it views the body neither as an enemy nor as a bacchanalian banquet -- but as a resource. The body is not only capable of spiritual elevation, but it is created for this purpose. The body's deepest satisfaction comes from being correctly used in the service of the soul.

    To the secular mind, holiness means abstinence. The body is incapable of spiritual elevation and must be mortified or transcended.

    This week's parsha begins with G-d saying to Moshe: "Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them 'You shall be holy -- for I am Holy, Hashem, Your G-d.' " Since G-d instructed Moshe to speak to the entire assembly, we know that this commandment was to be spoken in public to all the Jewish People together. Why? What is it about the command to be holy that it needed to be communicated in this fashion?

    The holiness that the Torah seeks from us is not a holiness of separation and denial, of monasticism and seclusion, rather it is a holiness which is to be lived in an assembly; a holiness where the body is elevated by the soul and where its greatest potential is only realized in our interaction with our fellow beings.

    • Chatam Sofer in Iturei Torah


    Amos 9:7 - 9:15


    This haftara is related to the Parsha of Acharei Mot where G-d warned the people of Israel not to imitate the immoral ways of the Canaanites lest the land regurgitate them into exile (Vayikra 18:28). The prophet Amos warns them that they now resemble the Canaanites and will soon be ejected from the Land. Yet, the prophet tells of the redemption when G-d will return them to the bountiful Land and rebuild the kingdom of David. Then, desolate cities will be rebuilt and the populace prosperous and peaceful forever.


    Amos forsees the future golden age in Israel: "Days will come, says Hashem, when the plowman will be reached by the reaper" (9:13).

    The Maggid of Dubno explains this: Today, we see people who toil and others who enjoy; not always does a person enjoy the fruit of his labor. Especially in exile when the Jews are oppressed continuously, one can toil in anticipation for the future but someone else steals the profits. In the future utopia, the plowman who toils will be the reaper who harvests the grain, as King David says, "Those who tearfully sow will reap in glad song" (Psalms 126:5). Also, this will be the era when everyone who toiled and suffered as a Jew will merit the Divine reward and understand that nothing was in vain.

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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