Acharei Mot (After the death) / K’doshim (Holy)

Acharei Mot – Leviticus 16:1 to 18:30
K’doshim – Leviticus 19:1 to 20:27

ID-100153453-325These two combined parshot are roughly in the center of Torah and sum up the message of Torah…. K’doshim begins the Holiness Code which tells how mankind should act as individuals and as a community.

The two parshot read this week are one of seven pairs that are may be read together depending upon the weeks in a given year. They are read separately during a year with a Leap Month.

According to the text, Acharei Mot takes place after the death of Aaron’s two sons. The Eternal tells Moses the laws regarding ritual practices that are to be followed by Aaron in the Tabernacle. The parsha also discusses the laws regarding eating of sacrificial meat and then lists forbidden sexual contacts.

The second parsha, K’doshim, begins the section of Torah commonly referred to as the Holiness Code. It encompasses all the materials from K’doshim to almost the end of Leviticus (Chapters 17 to 27 … sometimes the short Chapter 28 is also included). K’doshim is roughly in the center of the Torah. In many ways it provides us with the core teachings of Torah. K’doshim starts with one statement and ends with another that sums up the teachings of all Torah.

At start of the parsha God relates the following to Moses: “You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal your God, am holy.” (Lev. 19:1)

And then near the end of the parsha we are commanded to “Love your fellow (Israelite) as yourself; I am the Eternal.” (Lev. 19:18)

Two simple statements …. But, in the view of this commentator, sum up Torah’s major teaching.

“You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal your God am holy.” What does it mean to be “holy?
In past Torah references, “holy” or “kodesh” referred to a separation between those things and ideas that were associated with God and not those things considered secular.

In this parsha there is added meaning. We are told that God is holy …. And that the Israelites should also be holy. Just being an Israelite, is not enough. God give Moses many laws that the Israelites should follow in order to be “holy.” These laws are presented to us in a section of Torah commonly called the Holiness Code. This code comprises the rest of Leviticus. The laws presented cover all aspects of community living… social, commercial, and ritual… laws regarding both personal and community conduct. There are laws covering our relationship with God, the rights of the poor, theft, deceit, and honest courts. We also read about proper business practices and treatment of others (slaves, family members, disadvantaged, elders, and strangers in our community). Summing it all up….. We are commanded to “Love your fellow (Israelite) as yourself….”) …. Or …. To be Holy and follow God’s commandments we should be like God and follow the ways of the Eternal.

When asked to explain the Torah while standing on one foot, Rabbi Hillel (a popular teacher/commenter of the first century BCE) summed up the document with this statement… “What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary. Now go and learn it.” (Shabbat 31a)

Earl Sabes

Image courtesy of Cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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