Parsha Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5773
Campfire Torah 5773
Parsha Acharei Mot-Kedoshim
“After the Death”, “Holy Things”
So far, we have covered the rescue from Mitzrayim; the construction of the Mishkan; and the inauguration of the cohanim, the priesthood for the Mishkan. A few weeks ago, we mentioned the story of how Moshe’s nephews, Nadav and Avhihu, lost their lives by making an unauthorized incense offering. Now, let’s talk about what came, “After the Death”…
Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement
“You remember how I had to warn my brother not to go to pieces over his sons when they died? Well, there was more instruction Adonai gave regarding entering into his presence, before the Ark. He made clear the fact that no one can enter the holy place in the Mishkan without first cleansing himself and making the proper offerings. In fact, he gave us an entire procedure for national atonement and cleansing. He called it “Yom Kippur”, and it falls on the tenth day of the seventh month every year.
“By following this procedure, Aharon will be able to make atonement, first for himself and his family, and then for all Israel. Even the Mishkan itself gets purified in this annual ceremony! The sins of all our people will be symbolically transferred to the bull and the goat, and removed from society.
“What an amazing demonstration of the grace Hashem demonstrates toward us, his people. Even the Gentiles living among us are to enjoy this special day of rest, repentance, and forgiveness.
Sacrifice Only at the Mishkan
“Hashem then gave us further instructions regarding sacrifice. For instance, we must not attempt to do ritual sacrifices anywhere but at the Mishkan. If we do, Hashem will regard it as though we had murdered someone, with the penalty being exile from our people. This is to protect us from the temptation to offer sacrifices to the pagan deities of the nations around us.
“This includes a restriction against eating blood. Only those who worship false gods would do such a thing. Adonai tells us that blood is what keeps us alive, and it should only be used for sacred purposes, like purification.
“Again, even the gerim living among us are to follow this restriction.
Our Calling Is Our Task
“Of course, the whole point for doing the commandments of Hashem, and refraining from doing the things he prohibits, is to demonstrate our devotion to him. Remember, he unilaterally covenanted with our father, Abraham, promising him land, descendants, and blessing. Then, he expanded on that promise at Sinai, those many years ago, when he entered into a suzerain treaty with us. That’s what changed us from a loose confederation of related tribes, and turned us into a nation—Israel. He promised to bless and protect us. Our only obligation is to live according to his moral instructions—which is fine, since they are only intended for our own good, anyway. They give us life.
“I’m sure I don’t have to remind you all of the various sexual rules. Adonai doesn’t want any of us having children with close relatives. That would mess up the family relationships, and risk the problems we all have seen when close relatives have children. We love them dearly, but sometimes the nervous twitches and the slow wit that results from such unions are enough to drive one mad.
“Likewise, I would expect we all understand why homosexual relationships are off limits. They’re just unnatural. Our bodies weren’t designed for that sort of perversion.
“And frankly, I was kind of put off that Adonai felt it necessary to mention that we are not to have relationships with animals. I mean… who does that??? You know the saying, right? “When they tell you you can’t do something, it’s because somebody has already done it”! Yuck!
“The same goes for sacrificing our kids to idols, like that Molekh. Again… who does these things? Who could take his own offspring—or any kid, for that matter—and burn him alive on a barbeque pit? And this is supposed to gain them favor with their “gods”, so they can successfully practice divination and sorcery?
“I’m just constantly appalled at the horrible perversions people can sink to when they have no moral compass to guide them. No wonder Hashem is casting the inhabitants out of the Land, and giving it to us, instead. We may not be perfect, but at least we are willing to make the attempt at living according to the good instructions he gives us. Of course, that sword cuts both ways—Adonai has informed us that we will likewise be cast out of the Land if we neglect his instructions and commandments.
“Hashem wants us to be distinct, separate, righteous, living as lights in a dark world. We should be holy because he is holy and righteous in nature.
“Instead of doing the horrible things for which the pagan nations are known, Adonai calls us to a lifestyle that is pure and compassionate. We should respect our parents, love our children, and even take care of the strangers among us. Whereas others are known for slaughtering their infants, we are commanded to care for even the disenfranchised among us—the elderly, the poor, the widows, and the Gentiles who dwell among us. All are equally deserving of Hashem’s blessings, including his Shabbats.
“Justice, mercy, integrity, and compassion are to be our by-words. Our courts must be just, our interpersonal dealings erring on the side of mercy. We must not harbor hatred in our hearts, slandering others, but rather love everyone as we love ourselves. If we learned anything from generations of slavery in Mitzrayim, it is to be generous and open-hearted to those who can’t help themselves. And eat only the animals that have been given to us as “clean”.
“So, rejecting the horrors of pagan idolatry, while accepting the wonderfully righteous commandments of our God, together results in us receiving the blessing of the Land that we call, “the Land of Milk and Honey”. As long as we are faithful to our covenant with Hashem, he will protect us in the Land. We are to be holy for him, because Adonai is holy, and he has set us apart from the other peoples, so that we can belong to him, and raise a banner for the people of the nations to follow. Torah instruction is for them, too. Our G-d is the Lord over all the earth, and all the nations of the earth will eventually come to know him as we do.”
My friend, we have been born for this! As Moshe described, Hashem has called our people from ancient times. For hundreds of years, he has been working to bring us to this point. Now, he has given us the Mishkan, and promised to dwell in our midst. It is our destiny and our calling to represent Hashem to the world. All he asks is that we live according to a higher calling in all areas—legal, moral, social, dietary, and religious.
Let us live for Hashem in all we say and do, no matter whether we are eating, drinking, speaking, or working. In all we do, let us live to the glory of Adonai.
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