PARASHIYOT ACHAREI MOT/KEDOSHIM
Acharei Mot: Lev 16:1-18:30; Amos 9:7-15 (A), Ezek. 22:1-16 (S); 1 Cor 6:9-20
Kedoshim: Lev 19:1–20:27; Amos 9:7–15; Luke 16,17
“Now the L-rd spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they had approached the presence of the L-rd and died.”
Our Torah portion picks up right where chapter 10 left off with the death of Nadav and Avihu. Chapter 10 took us outside the camp with their death. We come back to the Holy of Holies with the cleansing of the metzora in chapters 11 through 15. This brings us full circle back to the tabernacle in chapter 16. This week's Parasha describes the rite of Yom Kippur service, including the ancient ritual ceremony of casting a goat to Azazel translated as the ‘escape goat’ or the ‘scapegost’.
The portion ‘Kedoshim” (holy ones) contain a myriad brief instructions, for example, “You shall not be a gossip monger among your people, you shall not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is being shed – I am HaShem. You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall reprove your fellow and not bear a sin because of him. You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge against the children of your people; you shall love your fellow as yourself – I am HaShem.” (Vayikra 19:16-18)
At first glance the Torah appears to be teaching a series of precepts designed to improve our character traits and perfect Israelite society. But the fact that these commandments are listed in such detail indicates that they reveal a central tenet of authentic Hebrew thought.
In verse 18, we are commanded to love our fellow as we love ourselves. While a precept such as this might sound pleasant in theory, some might argue the impossibility of such a decree.
In today’s prevalent culture – where the individual’s wants, needs and rights are given central importance – it seems doubtful that modern man could really be expected to love another as he loves himself. Perhaps one could attempt to treat his fellow as if he loves him to that extent but to actually feel this love in one’s heart seems as though the Torah is demanding not only a behavioural adjustment but also a complete revolution in human nature.
The commandment is followed by the statement “Ani Adonai” - “I am HaShem” – a declaration found throughout the Torah which often serves to emphasize the great importance of a particular mitzvah. In addition to reminding us that HaShem is all powerful and aware of a person’s true inner thoughts, the statement “I am HaShem” is akin to the Kadosh Barukh Hu signing a contract.
Laws carrying great consequence often include this Divine signature in order to guarantee that HaShem will treat a person according to his behavior, especially in regards to the fulfilment of these precepts.
By utilizing the statement “I am HaShem” following these particular laws, the Torah prompts the question of how such incredible weight can be placed on mitzvot so ostensibly alien to human behaviour. Rather than merely dictating conduct, these commandments serve as a direct challenge to what many mistakenly believe to be human nature, which can only be properly understood within the context of Israel’s true relationship to our Torah.
The Torah is not a rulebook meant to coerce human behaviour but rather the written expression of HaShem’s Divine Ideal, teaching us how to most successfully express our true inner selves. Our Sages teach (Yoma 28b) that “Our patriarch Avraham kept the entire Torah [even before the actual Torah was given to Israel in written form].”
Nefesh HaḤaim (1:21) expands on this idea by explaining how Israel’s patriarchs were able to perceive the positive impact of mitzvot on the metaphysical realm, and therefore lived Torah lives as an expression of their true inner selves.
While most humans today are sufficiently healthy that our lungs breath and our hearts beat without external guidance or assistance, we are not yet healthy enough to live the mitzvot as a natural function. We still require the Torah’s written form in order to help us in successfully expressing our true innermost.
But, HaShem knows mankind that even the most determined person is incapable of keeping Torah in all its majestic glory and revelation. And so, the Father promised a ‘new’ or ‘renewed’ covenant in Jeremiah 31:
"Behold, days are coming" — it is a declaration of Adonai — "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — not like the covenant I made with their fathers (which was perfect in itself, for it is God’s self-revelation) in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they broke My covenant, though I was a husband to them."
it is a declaration of Adonai.
"But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days"
—it is a declaration of Adonai — "I will put My Torah within them. Yes, I will write it on their heart. I will be their God and they will be My people.
HaShem realized that even the best of man’s intention, are insufficient and so, at the appointed time:
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Messiah died for the ungodly. For rarely will anyone die for a righteous man—though perhaps for a good man someone might even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us. How much more then, having now been set right by His blood, shall we be saved from God's wrath through Him. For if, while we were yet enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.
Furthermore, on the day of Shavuoth, while the 120 gathered together to pray, to study and to count the omer, the Father poured out His Ru’ach HaKodesh as a seal that all His promises are true; “I pour out My spirit in those days” (Joel 3:2).
For the law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what was impossible for the Torah—since it was weakened on account of the flesh—God has done. Sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as a sin offering, He condemned sin in the flesh— so that the requirement of the Torah might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Ruach.
And so, with this understanding, we can appreciate that these mitzvot reveal to mankind what Rabbi Jonathan Sacks calls “the architecture of holiness’. All the mitzvot shows us what holiness ‘looks like’.
We are all part of Messiah’s Body and as such, we are bound to ALL the mitzvot revealed in the Torah.
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper so He may be with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him. You know Him, because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not abandon you as orphans; I will come to you.
Yeshua fulfilled all the mitzvot perfectly and He instructed us to follow Him, which infers to follow His example and live a life that is a soothing aroma to our heavenly Father. May you and I found to be worthy of this high calling, which Sha’ul calls “the more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31).