Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Acharei Mot Kedoshim 5769- More on our Holiness?

Acharei Mot continues straight on after the giving of the laws of kashrut and the injunction that we must be holy because Hashem is holy.  So how doe sit continue?  Acharei Mot contains three main sections:  The Yom Kippur avodah, the prohibition against offering sacrifices in the fields away from the Mizbeach and the Kohanim and then the sexual prohibitions.  Kedoshim contains a whole slew of laws- from not stealing and bserving the Shabbos  to repeating the sexual imoralities and their punishments, laws against lashon hara and perverting justice.  IN all, there are 69 laws either brought for the first time or repeated in this parshah- and what do we find in the middle of it “34. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be as a native from among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord, your God.”

What can we learn from all of this?  This mix of laws that relate to our behaviour towards G-d as well as our behaviour towards our fellow man- and the dictum quoted as Hillel as being the essence of the Torah “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Perhaps we cvan relate it back to the last two posts I made- the reason for Korbanot and the Torah teaching us how to be holy.

Think about this way- these two parshiot follow on from the teaching that we must be holy because G-d is holy.  the ews are there to enable the purpose of the world to be fulfilled- for the Torah to be rbought out and studied.  But this world is both physical and spiritual- the laws of how we relate to g-d are just as important as how we relate to our fellow man.  So G-d tells us how not to be- not to follow the practices of Egypt and the residents of Canaan when it comes to sexual immorality- that such behaviour is a debasement of the person, bringing them down to an animal level just as unrestricted diet brings us down to the physical level of animals in just eating what is there instead of moderating it- this point reinforced when the two sets fo laws are discussed together at the end of prashas Kedoshim.  But at the same time we see the laws being given as to how we must offer sacrifices, how a sacrifce offered away from the mizbeach is a grave sin- one punishable by kares (spiritual excission) and we are also given the laws of Yom Kippur- the ultimate day of atonement and of the nation as a whole seeking forgiveness.  And what do we juxtapose against all fo this- Hillel’s statement: “Love your neighbor as yourself”- along with the prohibition against Lashon hara which is brought by our sages to be even worse than murder in various curcumstances!

These two parshiot reinforce the relationship between us and G-d- the governing of our conduct so that we will be holy, like G-d- but they also emphasise an essential part of that relationship- that how we act towarfds our fellow man is just as much a part of how we act towards G-d!  If every man has that element of divinity in them from G-d, then every man is essentially representaive of G-d and should be treated with the respect and dignity due to him as such.  what their station is, how much money they have, whether they are great sages or an Am Ha’aretz is not material- every man needs to be treated with dignity, respect and deference.  No one can say what soul inhaboits any body.  This si the point Hillel was making when he stood on one leg and said “The whole Torah is “Love your neighbor as yourself”, the rest is commentary.  Now go study.”  The Torah teaches us that to grasp for that holiness that G-d wants us to achieve cannot be done by being ascetics, cutting ourselves off from the world and isolating ourselves from our fellow man.  To be holy interacting with our fellow man is just as important as interacting with G-d- loving our fellow man, recognising that essential divine spark driving towards holiness in our fellow man is to recognise the Torah and G-d in thew world- to realise that relating to holiness is not merely to elevate ourselves, but everyone around us, the world as whole!  We talk about the sacrifices repairing the relationship between us and Hashem with the Korban chatas or Asham- or cementing the relationship with the others- but taking the “Love youre neighbor” dictum into account we can understand why on Sukkot seventy bulls were sacrificed on the mizbeach- not for us, but for the nations of the world.  Thus in Masechta Sukkot is states that if the nations of the world had realised how much they benefited form the Temple, they would have worked to defend it and never to harm it.

And what happens when we forget this dictum?  When this essential element of the Torah- “Love your neighbor as yourself is forgotten?”  Well, we are told that the first Temple was destroyed because of idoltary, the breakdown in the relationship between us and G-d; but the second temple was destroyed because of Sinat Chinam, baseless hatred, a breakdown in the relationship between man and man- and which has resulted in the worse ecile, the greatest suffering?

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April 30, 2009 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah | , , , , , , , , , ,

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