This week we read a double parashah, Acharei-Mot (Levitcus 16:1-18:30) and Kdoshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27). Often the names of these weekly Torah sections tell us a great deal about the Biblical view on life and provide us with great insights. Acharei-Mot means “After the deaths of…” In the previous sections, we read about deaths caused by the plague of tzara’at and about Aaron’s sons’ deaths. The reader can imagine that many asked where was G’d. In this week’s sections, we receive at least a partial answer. The Torah teaches us that Acharei-Mot, after death, G’d reminded us that we are to define live on the level of the sacred; on the scale of holiness. In other words, in the face of death, be holy; in the face of death, chose life
Certainly, no people know this lesson better than we, the Jewish people do. Less than 100 years ago, we were a broken people. On that dark-continent called Europe, we suffered the indescribable anguish of the Holocaust. Europe offered no refuge anywhere. Europe, after some 2,000 years of prejudice, simply had no place for Jewish life, and so in its final act of barbarity, it sought to eliminate its “Jewish problem.” After the orgy of murders, we were a broken people. Yet the bent tree we call Jewish life once again found the rebirth of modern Israel. Despite the fact, Israel stills suffers from European prejudices modern Israel is a vibrant and strong democracy.
As we read these two sections we go on a spiritual journey. On this journey the Torah reminds us that survival is more than merely the physical; it is also the spiritual. This spiritual journey must be on both the personal and national levels. Each of us is obligated to teach the world that prejudice and hatred must be conquered and that all human beings are made in the image of G-d. Being holy is not merely living in the here and now, but with respect for the past and with a sense of futurity and hope. To be holy is both to have faith and to practice it.
The opposite of holiness is secularism; it is a flight into fantasy. It is the belief that whatever one does is ok, that one lives only for oneself, and that what really counts is the celebration of the “I”. To be holy is to do for others, to realize that our actions matter and that no group, community or nation can survive merely by the selfish despair that comes from inward thinking.
These two sections teach us that how we live, how we choose to make our lives holy, and how we treat others to form the building blocks of faith and the basis of optimism. What do you think?
Youtubes of the week:
One of the ways that Israel celebrated its Independence Day was by having thousands of people who did not know each other come together in patriotic song. Here are three examples:
In Tel Aviv on Yom Ha’Atzmaut:
Around cities around Israel:
In nations around the world: Oseh Shalom: