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Parshat 'Aharei Mot/Kedoshim

Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:1 - 20:27

The first of the double parsha for this weekly Torah reading introduces the service of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).

The opening verses further clarify the cause behind the death of Aharon’s oldest sons, Nadab and Abihu [SEE: Leviticus 10:1-2]. It appears it entailed more than offering “strange fire” and unbidden incense. It goes much deeper than that. In their zeal to serve HaShem they greatly overstepped their prerogative by entering an area of the Tabernacle forbidden to them and reserved only for the Kohen Gadol and then only once a year even by him — on Yom Kippur.

Our Sages of Blessed Memory and rabbis currently alive have given a great amount of time in study on this question of Aharon’s son’s death and its connection to our holiest day — Yom Kippur [ SEE Discussions found in Talmud: Yerushalayim Yoma 1:1; Mishnah Parah 3:1; Rambam 16:2 and Yoma 53a. Also read conversations with Rav Yair Kohn at The Israel Koschinsky Virtual Beit Midrash website.

One might ask why dedicate three paragraphs to this seemingly connection between the death of Aharon’s sons and the initiation of the Yom Kippur service when the Torah only spends a few verses on it. The connection exists because it offers hope, forgiveness and atonement even for the righteous dead who have unintentional sins accounted to them upon their death. As Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk stated in his brilliant work Meshech Chochmah that Yom Kippur is “a time of favor” that opens up the gates of atonement for all the righteous — those living in the world and in the world of souls. This Day of Atonement is open to all who treat it with the deep spiritual respect and holiness afforded it by HaShem Himself.

Most of parshat Aharei Mot goes on to lay out the preparations, service, offerings, rituals, prohibitions, confessions and sacrifices, as well as, the acts of self-denial; to outwardly express that greatly held inner spiritual dimension within the heart and soul of the person and nation during this most holy of days.

The closing verses of Aharei Mot and the entire parsha Kedoshim addresses HaShem’s laws designed to set-apart His people Israel from all the nations surrounding them, including those they will replace in Eretz Israel.

As a people, a nation, we are to be holy as HaShem our Possessor is holy. This holiness should — and if committed to — will distinguish us as a unique people — a unique nation — set-apart and fitted to perfectly perform HaShem’s task for us — tikkun olam.

Because we are a nation governed by the eternal laws of a holy G-d and Creator every aspect of our lives are touched by these righteous, upright and holy statues, whether we acknowledge this or not.

These areas are addressed in the closing chapter of Aharei Mot and all of Kedoshim. They are:

Forbidden and Allowable Relationships — Homosexuality (Sodomy) — Beastiality — Forbidding the Ingestion of Blood — Slaughter of babies (born and unborn) which is equivalent to Moloch worship — Parental Respect — Observance and Maintaining holiness of Shabbats — Dealing honestly and fairly with others — (Gifts) Helping to the poor, destitute, widows, orphans and the infirmed — Loving your fellow as yourself (according to Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Akiva this is the greatest and most foundational commandment in Torah) — the unexplained and possibly unknowable reason forbidding of mixing linens with wool, crossbreeding of totally separate species of animals and non-sowing of mixed seeds in the same patch of land — the use of fair, accurate and balanced weights of measure — And finally: the forbidden use of mediums, incantations and rituals in order to contact “ghosts” - spirits. This is considered by HaShem to be as loathsome and abhorrent as idol worship and will be dealt with most harshly.

Throughout these two parshas the one theme that is constantly stressed is:

“I Am HaShem your G-d.” “You shall be holy (set-apart) for Me, for I HaShem am holy; and I have separated you from the peoples to be Mine.”

Until next time — Be Holy and Shalom!

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