Perashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Leilui Nishmat Fahima Bat Tobah by the Elo family

Perashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

This week’s Parasha is called Acherei Mot and begins with the Pasuk, “vayedaber Hashem el Moshe acherei mot shenei benei Aharon bekarbatam lifnei Hashem vayamotu. “Hashem spoke to Moshe after the death of Aharon's two sons, when they approached before Hashem, and they died.” This incident of Aharon’s two sons occurred in Parashat Shemini, but I did not discuss it then because I wanted to focus on the Kashrut laws. Now that its brought up again, and is even referred to in the title of this week’s Parasha, I wanted to point out some of the points that our Rabbis teach us about the tragic death of Aharon’s sons.

Nadab and Abihu were two great tzadikim, and according to Chazal, the sin they committed that caused their death was that they brought a foreign incense into the Mishkan without discussing it with each other, but more importantly, it was without the consent of their Rabbi Moshe Rabenu. According to Rashbam, Moshe was waiting for the descent of the heavenly fire because he wanted the first incense to be kindled with Hashem's own fire to bring about a Kiddush Hashem! This teaches us an important lesson, that as much as we think we may know a certain Halachah, we should always consult with our Rabbis before we do something that could be questionable or even forbidden.

This idea brings us to the end of this week’s Parasha, where Perek 18 opens with the following introduction to the prohibition of immoral acts: "Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: Speak to B’nei Yisrael and say to them: I am Hashem, your G-d. Do not perform the practice of the land of Egypt in which you dwelled; do not perform the practice of the land of Canaan to which I bring you, and do not follow their traditions. Carry on My laws and safeguard My decrees to follow them; I am Hashem, your G-d! You shall observe My decrees and My laws, which a man shall carry out and live by them – I am Hashem!"

When the Torah gives us such a powerful introduction like the one above, we must take heed, because the Torah doesn't waste words, and we must be aware that what is to follow is of the utmost importance! The Torah mentions these two places, Egypt and Canaan, for a reason: they were both places of affluence. Affluence leads to spare time, for when people have excess money and don't need to work so hard, they have free time, which leads them to sin. When a person fills his time with learning or working hard, there is no time to sin. On the other hand, when people are unemployed either because there is an economic crisis, such as during the Great Depression, or during other times of great economic hardship, or because they just choose not to work, they are much more likely to get into trouble. We have seen this happen over and over throughout history. When a person is employed, he has more self-respect, he has a goal, a structure, a sense of responsibility and accomplishment and an interaction with other responsible people. When people decide that it’s not worth their while to work, and don’t even try to find employment, they end up becoming dependent on handouts and studies show that they are much more likely to get into trouble, break the law, and so on.

The Perek then continues to list all the forbidden relationships that we must abstain from. The Torah goes on at some length, describing each one of these prohibited relationships. These specific practices are mentioned because they were common in Egypt, where the Israelites lived fir 210 years. These foreign ideologies may become deeply ingrained over a period of time, when a people have resided in a land like Egypt for so many years. This is similar to what has been going on in American society today. Ask your parents and grandparents what life was like in the old days. America had moral values, and the people of this country were much more modest and had a better work ethic but over time those morals and that ethic has eroded to what we are experiencing today. We cannot be fooled into thinking that our environment doesn't have an affect on us, because it definitely does. That's why we must live within the confines of our communities, to make sure that our families are protected from the external foreign elements of today's society. This is the lesson we learn from our ancestors when B’nei Yisrael left the decadent society of Egypt, they also had to shed the baggage they had, so it would not accompany them as they headed to take up residence in their new homeland in Eretz Yisrael.

The following story accurately depicts this concept;

A Talmudic scholar was travelling by train from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. The man had a beard, long dark coat, and a large wide-brimmed black hat. After placing his bags above his seat, he sat down next to a well-groomed businessman who looked at him scornfully. For the first 20 minutes of the trip, the secular gentleman kept eyeing the student as if he wanted to tell him something. Finally, the businessman could no longer contain himself. With passion in his voice, the man began to shout, “You know, I’m sick and tired of Jews who think they are still in the Middles Ages! You are a disgrace! I’m Jewish, too. I even speak Yiddish. But do I wear a black coat? Do I let my beard grow? Must I wear an oversized hat? No! Why do you wear those clothes? Why do you wear that beard? Why do you need that hat? It’s time you woke up and joined the modern world – the world of America!”

The startled student look at his accuser quizzically. In a perfect Pennsylvanian accent, he began to speak. “Jewish?” he queried.”Excuse me, sir, I’m Amish, and I’m on my way back home from a visit with relatives in Philadelphia. I am sorry if I offend you with my style of dress, but this is part of our heritage and culture. It was passed from our families in Europe to our families here in Lancaster. I’m sorry if I have disturbed you.”

The businessman’s face turned red. “I’m awfully sorry,” he said contritely, “I did not mean what I said. In fact, I think it is wonderful that you maintain your heritage, culture, and tradition with such enthusiasm. It shows courage, fortitude, and commitment. Please forgive me. I was truly insensitive.” Suddenly a wide smile broke across the young scholar’s face. In perfect Yiddish he asked the reeling traveler one simple question. “For the gentile it’s wonderful, but for the Jew it’s a disgrace?”

The first Pasuk in Kedushim begins as follows, "Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: Speak to the entire assembly of B'nei Yisrael and say to them: You shall be Holy, for holy am I...Hashem, your G-d". In the previous Parashot we learned about the animals that we're not allowed to eat. At the end of last week’s Parasha we learned of all the prohibited relations and immoral acts. All of these things that the Torah prohibits us from are there so that our Nesahmot don't become contaminated and as a byproduct to train us in the practice of discipline which every one of us need to live a successful and productive life. Now we continue to learn what the nation that represents Hashem must do and how we must act amongst each other in order to sanctify the name of Hashem. We learn how we must deal honestly with our fellow Jew and non-Jew alike in all of our business dealings. This will be the theme of this week’s Parasha where Hashem will give the Jewish nation all the laws that we must adhere to for a healthy and fulfilling life.

Most of the decrees are between man and his fellow man. We are commanded: “You shall not steal. You shall not deny falsely. You shall not lie, one man to his fellow. You shall not swear falsely by My Name, thereby profaning the Name of your God. I am the Lord. You shall not oppress your fellow. You shall not rob. The hired worker's wage shall not remain with you overnight until morning. You shall not curse a deaf person. You shall not place a stumbling block before a blind person, and you shall fear your God. I am the Lord.” We may think that these acts can be hidden from our fellow man. You can cheat your neighbor and he may not be aware of it. You can curse the deaf and he won't hear you. But if you put a stumbling block in front of a blind man, according to Rashi, in addition to the literal meaning, the verse also means allegorically that one should not give bad advice to an unsuspecting person. The message of this commandment is that we are responsible for the welfare of others and may not do anything to undermine it. At the end of the Pasuk again it says: "You shall fear your G-D...I am Hashem". So Hashem is saying in these Pesukim, don't think that you're doing something that Hashem doesn't see because He sees everything that we do. Hashem sees all and we will eventually answer to Him after 120 years!

The juxtaposition in the commandment "Your father and mother shall you revere and My Sabbath shall you observe - I am Hashem, your G-d" tells us, according to the Rabbis, that if a parent commands a child to desecrate the Shabbat or anything else against the Torah the parent must not be obeyed. This can cause confusion for children if the parents are not on the same page with each other or the Yeshivah that they're sending their children to. We may be doing our children a very big disservice if at home we don't follow up and take over where the school left off in terms of the child's Chinuch. Children from a very young age mimic what they see at home. So as parents, grandparents and teachers we must be very careful with that responsibility and cherish every minute of it, as our children are growing and maturing day by day.

May we all be very careful in our dealings with people so that we can sanctify the name of Hashem! May we realize that Hashem set us apart for a reason in order to sanctify His great name. So for this reason we keep the kashrut, family purity laws and our modest dress laws as reminders of our status as a holy nation. May we also always remember to honor our parents and be very careful in all our actions in front of our children because we are on stage for them every minute of the day!

Shabbat Shalom!

Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of

Rabbi Amram Sananes

Leiluiy Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel Malka Bat Garaz

Sarah Bat Chanah Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Shulamit Bat Helaina Esther Bat Sarah

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Rav Haim Ben Rivka Rafael Ben Miriam

Yitzchak Ben Adele Moshe Ben Mazal

Chanah Bat Esther Avraham Ben Mazal

Moshe Ben Garaz Ovadia Ben Esther

Avraham Ben Garaz Rahamim Ben Mazal

Yaakov Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Mazal

Meir Ben Latifa Avraham Ben Kami

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