• Dvar for Acharei Mot/Kedoshim (Leviticus 16:1-20:27)

    Did you know that the airline safety announcements were (possibly) taken from one of this week’s Parshiot, Acharei Mot? When the Torah says that the Kohen Gadol (high priest) worked for forgiveness of himself, his family and of the nation as a whole (16:17), one should wonder why he couldn’t just work on forgiveness for everyone, which would clearly also include himself and his family.

    The answer is that before we can think about fixing the world, we need to fix ourselves and our immediate surroundings. As the airlines say, “secure your mask before assisting others.” What’s  even more interesting in the wording is that the word “forgiveness” is only mentioned once, and yet it affects himself, his family and the entire nation. It seems that a single positive action can have the affect of improving ourselves, our families AND the nation. It’s clear from this that finding ways to improve ourselves has a cumulative affect far greater than the improvements themselves, an important concept which should motivate us to find us a mask to secure.

  • Dvar for Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16:1-18:30)

    From a literal perspective, the names of Parshiot are nothing more than the first major word of the part of the Torah that is read during the week.  It can, however, be argued that deep meaning actually lies within the names themselves.  This week’s Parsha, Acharei Mot, literally means “after death”, and next week’s Parsha, Kedoshim that means “holiness”, are fine examples of this phenomenon.

    Imagine walking into a dark room for the first time.  Not knowing one’s way or one’s place, one trips over the furniture, unaware of which way to turn.  However, after days and weeks and months and years, when one walks into that very same dark room, although the darkness still exists, with time we learn how to negotiate the furniture and we can make our way. This week’s Parsha reminds us that after life ends (Acharei Mot), there can always be Kedoshim – a sense of continuum that is expressed through holiness.  How so?  The challenge of death is to keep the person who has died alive in spirit.  Indeed the Talmud says, there are some people who are actually living yet are not really alive – they’re only going through the motions.  On the flip side, there are others who, although physically dead, continue to live through the teachings they left behind and through those whom they have touched in life. The goal is to live a life of character, purpose and meaning, and let those that have passed live through our actions.
  • Daily Aliya for Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The Torah sets the punishments for individuals who curse their parents and those who engage in prohibited sexual relations. We are instructed not to follow the customs and traditions of the heathens, and to be meticulous about eating only kosher foods. The Torah portion ends with an rejoinder that we be holy.

    Notice the dual role that every Jew must play. We are each individuals and we are part of Klal Yisrael. We are exhorted to keep the Torah as individuals, but we are also “advised” to be faithful to G-d so that tragedies will not happen to the People of Israel as a whole.

  • Daily Aliya for Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: We are commandment to love converts. We are also enjoined to be truthful in business dealing by maintaining honest weights and measures. The Torah prescribes capital punishment for one who worships Molech; a form of idolatry which required human sacrifices. The Torah also describes the punishment which will befall the nation if they neglect to punish Molech worshippers.

    Keep all of G-d’s statutes and laws. (This too is a commandment, but it would be “unfair” to count it among the 613 mitzvot, because it is general and all-encompassing of the other mitzvot of the Torah. The Rambam excludes this kind of mitzva from the counting of 613 commandments in the rule he sets down in the first section of his Book of Mitzvot. )

  • Dvar for Acharei Mot/Kedoshim (Leviticus 16:1-20:27)

    Did you know that the airline safety announcements were taken from one of this week’s Parshiot, Acharei Mot? When the Torah says that the Kohen Gadol (high priest) worked for forgiveness of himself, his family and of the nation as a whole (16:17), one should wonder why he couldn’t just work on forgiveness for everyone, which would clearly also include himself and his family.

    The answer is that before we can think about fixing the world, we need to fix ourselves and our immediate surroundings. As the airlines say, “secure your mask before assisting others.” What’s  even more interesting in the wording is that the word “forgiveness” is only mentioned once, and yet it affects himself, his family and the entire nation. It seems that a single positive action can have the affect of improving ourselves, our families AND the nation! It’s clear from this that finding ways to improve ourselves has a cumulative affect far greater than the improvements themselves, an important concept which should motivate us to find us a mask to secure.

  • Daily Aliya for Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: More mitzvot: Not to pervert justice, gossip, be indifferent to a fellow’s predicament, hate a fellow Jew, bear grudges, or take revenge. To reprimand a sinner, and to love every Jew. The following statutes are also given here: not to sow a field with two kinds of seed, wear a garment made of a mixture of wool and linen (shatnez), or crossbreed animals. The section also includes with the laws of one who commits adultery with a half-free maidservant. We are introduced to the laws of “orlah,” the prohibition against eating the fruit of a new sapling for the first three years, and the obligation to sanctify the fruit of the fourth year. We are enjoined not to engage in witchcraft or prostitution, or tattoo our bodies. Men are instructed not to destroy the hair at the edges of their scalp or the corners of their beards. We are commanded to observe the Shabbat; respect G‑d’s sanctuary, Torah scholars and the elderly.

    The Talmud tells of a Rabbi who told his colleague that when he sees men sitting by the roadside, he circumvents them so as not to burden them with standing for him as he passes by. His friend told him that he was not acting wisely, because the Torah attached Reverence for G-d to the mitzva of standing for the elderly and the Torah Scholar, and one should not “spare them” from this mitzva/opportunity.

  • Daily Aliya for Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The prohibitions against homosexuality and bestiality are mentioned. The Jews are then warned that engaging in these forbidden relationships will result in their expulsion from the Land of Israel — a holy land which cannot tolerate immoral behavior. G‑d commands the Jewish people to be holy. This section then briefly discuses several laws: revering parents; observing the Shabbat; prohibitions against idolatry; the obligation to burn “leftover” sacrificial flesh; the obligation to leave certain parts of one’s harvest for the poor; not to lie, cheat, withhold wages, swear falsely, curse or mislead another.

    BE HOLY! – HOW? In light of the exceptionally large number of mitzvot in this sedra (K’doshim), one can fairly assume that the answer to that question is – by the observance of mitzvot. This means more than “just going through the motions”. It means a Torah way of life, mitzvot for the right motives and with the right enthusiasm.

  • Daily Aliya for Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: We are enjoined not to consume blood. When slaughtering fowl or undomesticated animals, we are commanded to cover their blood with earth. The Jews are admonished not to follow the depraved ways of the Egyptians and Canaanites. On this note, the Torah provides a list of prohibited sexual relationships. The list includes adultery, cohabiting with a menstruating woman, and forbidden close relatives.

    From the term “and live by them”, we are taught two important concepts. Judaism is not just a religion; it is a way of life. Furthermore, this verse is (one of) the source(s) of the concept that many mitzvot (but not all!) are pushed aside if there is a life-threatening situation. Mitzvot are to LIVE by, not die by.

  • Daily Aliya for Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, Sheni (2nd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: After concluding the order of the Yom Kippur service in the Temple, the Torah instructs us to observe Yom Kippur as a Day of Atonement when we must abstain from work and “afflict” ourselves. The Jews are then forbidden to offer sacrifices anywhere other than the Tabernacle or Temple.

    It is similarly forbidden to slaughter an animal for personal use within the precincts of the Temple. A korban slaughtered outside is invalid and must be burned, “personal” meat inside is likewise forbidden. Both are wasteful, hence sinful, acts which can be construed as a form of “bloodshed”.

  • Daily Aliya for Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, Rishon (1st Aliya)

    General Overview: This week’s reading, Acharei-Kedoshim, begins with a detailed description of the service of the High Priest on Yom Kippur. Dozens of commandments are then discussed in this week’s reading. Among them: the prohibitions against offering sacrifices outside the Temple; consuming blood; incestuous, adulterous, or other forbidden relationships; various mandatory gifts for the poor; love for every Jew, prohibition against sorcery; honesty in business dealings; and sexual morality.

    Aliya Summary: The High Priest is instructed to only enter the Holy of Holies chamber of the sanctuary once a year, on Yom Kippur; and even on this holiest day of the year, the entry into the Temple’s inner sanctum must be accompanied by a special service and specific offerings which are detailed in this reading. The High Priest was only permitted to enter amidst a cloud of burning incense. Also, special white garments were worn by the High Priest on this day. While offering the day’s sacrifices, the High Priest would “confess” on behalf of the entire nation, attaining atonement for the past year’s sins. This section continues with a description of the “scapegoat” ceremony procedure.

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