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Parashat Acharei Mot

Dedicated Leilui Nishmat Yosef Ben Zakiya by His Son’s Abe and Dr. Jack Cohen

Parashat Acharei Mot

This week’s parasha is called Acharei Mot, and begins with the passuk, “vayedaber Hashem el Moshe ahareh mot sheneh beneh Aharon bekarbatam lifneh Hashem vayamotu — Hashem spoke to Moshe after the death of Aharon’s two sons, when they came before Hashem, and they died.”

The Deaths of Aharon’s Sons

Nadab and Abihu were two great tzaddikim. 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, without the consent of their Rabbi Moshe Rabenu. According to Rashbam, Moshe was waiting to bring incense only after 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! Nadab and Abihu did not realize this, and rushed to bring incense with their own fire.

This teaches us an important lesson: As much as we think we may know a certain halacha, we should always consult with our Rabbis before we do something that could be questionable or even forbidden. Also, because we myst always consult with someone else. We can be more objective and able to correct another other persons actions. This is the reason why students learn together so there’s a give and take which brings us to a higher and more clearer understanding of the Torah.

An obvious question is why this incident is brought down here in this parasha, when it actually happened earlier earlier? The answer is in the next passuk, “And Hashem said to Moshe; speak to Aharon, your brother; he shall not come at all times into the kodesh kodashim, so that he [Aharon] should not die.”

Rashi explains this with a parable of a person who is sick and goes to the doctor. The doctor warns his patient to stay away from certain foods and get the proper rest in order to recover quickly. If the doctor scares the patient, telling him that he could die if he doesn’t adhere to his instructions, the patient will be more likely to listen and follow the doctor’s orders.

Rabbi Twersky uses the example of a person who continues to abuse drugs until he’s warned that if he doesn’t stop taking drugs, they could kill him the way they have killed others he knew personally.

But why is the Torah compelled to use these strong words — “don’t do it or you’ll die” — with Aharon, who was the kohen gadoland equal in spirituality to Moshe? Is there the slightest chance that Aharon would not obey Moshe’s instructions, even without the reminder of Nadab and Abihu’s death?

The Torah is teaching us an important lesson: As long as we inhabit our physical body, we will always have strong drives for forbidden things. Even Aharon could need to be taught a painful lesson in order to be able to overcome his yetzer hara. How much more so should we, who are at a much lower level of spirituality than Aharon, realize the danger of ignoring the consequences of prohibited acts.

The Importance of Working

At the end of this week’s parasha, perek 18 opens with an introduction to the prohibition of immoral acts: “Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: Speak to Beneh 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 interactions 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. Studies show that they are much more likely to get into trouble, break the law, and so on.

Immorality is not an acceptable Jewish trait

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 for 210 years. When people live someplace for a long period of time, the foreign ideologies of that place become deeply ingrained in them. That’s why the Torah had to make such a point of saying that all of these practices are forbidden.

This is similar to what has been going on in our American society of 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 ethics have eroded to what we are experiencing today. We cannot be fooled into thinking that our environment doesn’t have an effect 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 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 leave the immorality of that society to prepare themselves to accept the Torah and be a holy and separate nation to Hashem as they were on their way to take up residence in their new homeland of Eretz Yisrael.

There’s an amazing true story brought down of a man that happened to be walking behind an Orthodox Jew in Tel Aviv. As he was walking he noticed the man cross the street as he came upon an area of immorality so as to avoid seeing it. The man walking behind was in shock why this Orthodox Jew would avoid such a sight because to him this was something pleasurable to see. This man was so astonished by this action that he decided to look more deeply into his Jewish religion to see what’s in it that would cause this person to turn away from the immorality before him. He decided to speak to a Rabbi that he knew and began to learn about his Judaism. He kept up his curiosity more and more until eventually after many years, he became a Rabbi and a Rosh Yeshiva with students of his own.

Now that man that he was walking behind was totally unaware that someone walking behind him had changed his entire life because of his one simple action. It won’t be until after 120 when he goes to Olam Habah that he’ll learn how he alone was responsible for this man strolling behind him that became a Rabbi from observerving one simple act that he did! This just goes to show how important our actions are because someone is always watching us.

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 laws of kashrut, family purity, and modest dress as reminders of our status as a holy nation. May we also be aware of our actions as well as our speech because you never know who’s watching and how it can affect them.

Shabbat Shalom!

Discussion Points:

· Do we consult with a Rabbi before doing something we’re not sure of?

· Are we holding on tight to our our morality, our laws and traditions, or are we adopting the traits of the decadent society that surrounds us?

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Leiluiy Nishmat....

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