Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Acharei Mot/Kedohim (After death/Holy ones) Lev.16:1 - 20:27
Straight after a life-changing event this parasha starts with a corrective action to preserve life. In most cases we as human beings with our finite minds tend to approach the unknown, from a set point of reference, derived from our common everyday interaction with our surroundings and experiences. In the case that preceded this parasha both of Aaron son’s approached YHVH’s presence in a common manner, profane and they paid with their life. Acharei Mot “after death” deals with how one must approach the presence of HaShem the Most High. Familiarity brings complaisance; complaisance brings destruction, which is applicable to the natural as well as to the spiritual.
As a scientist, I deal with very dangerous chemicals on a daily basis at the laboratory, one misplaced drop of a particular substance and it will be all over for either myself or my work colleagues, we are always stressing the need for attention to detail and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). There is good reason for that I could fill a couple of pages of incidents, which have resulted in fatalities in the last two decades in my field of work. In the spiritual environment there is no difference to the natural world we inhabit, in the last parasha Aarons sons strange fire, describes one such occasion, similarly thousands of years later on the Brit Hadasha, we have another incident that cost two lives as well. Ananias and Sapphira, too paid a similar price for taking the Ruach HaKodesh as a common entity, they even went further, they lied to the Ruach. Getting caught in the excitement leads to commonality, which in turn leads to death.
The solution was that YHVH placed very strict rules, on how we should approach Him and His Ruach and therefore live our lives. The clothes we wear, the level of personal hygiene, how and when to bring a korban, a gift, an offering to Him. All of these commandments He related through Moses, that then were passed on to Aaron and to Aaron’s son, in turn they would convey this to the congregation. This level of detail should send some warning signals to us in our current era. The purpose of the recalling of the events is not just for historical reasons, they are far more than that, they lead us into a path of understanding, in other words wisdom, that is, applied knowledge. To know and not do anything about it is to act foolishly, however to act upon knowledge and a change ones course in life, that is wisdom. These Torah portions that we do year after year, the same portions at the prescribed times, are not just another event in a ritualistic attendance to synagogue, the church, the home meeting, youth group or whatever other event we tend to gather to share listen and learn. No, they are YHVH’s instruction to us, so that we may have life, abundant life. Deuteronomy 4:9: Only take heed to yourself and keep your soul carefully, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. But teach them to your sons, and your sons' sons. And Deuteronomy 6:2: that you might fear the YHVH your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you, and your son, and your son's son, all the days of your life, and so that your days may be prolonged.
Further to giving His instructions on how we approach Him, HaShem now gives instruction on how we relate to each other at an intimate level. However this time the issue is more serious He now calls the congregation and there will be no middleman. The thing that will be spoken is of a serious nature and therefore it is addressed directly to the recipients. In Leviticus 18:2-5 HaShem instructs the following: Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, I am YHVH your God. You shall not do like the doings of the land of Egypt in which you lived. And you shall not do like the doings of the land of Canaan, where I bring you. Neither shall you walk in their ordinances. You shall do My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them. I am YHVH your God. And you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live in them. I am YHVH. With this he starts His instructions, they all deal with sexual immorality and sexual perversion. In our days of political correctness and freedom of action our society and culture has opted to disregard all decency and adopted a new morality. An interesting thing I heard recently and I happen to agree with it, is that morality changes along with culture. What was not permissible say 70 years ago is common practice in our days. An example of this is the first time a curse word was used in a movie theater, the secular media made a fairly big deal of it, it made all of the media headlines of the day. Today’s movies are laced with an array of colorful metaphors that would make a truck driver blush. Further to that, todays moral standard of the church, are on par with the secular world of 70 years ago. What will it be 70 years from now, our current moral standard in the secular world be in our congregations? Sobering concept.
With this in mind HaShem had a warning for us when he gave these commandments, HaShem says in Lev 18:25 And the land is defiled. Therefore I visit its wickedness on it, and the land itself vomits out those who live in it. Further more what we need to note is the fact that in these passages there is an equation of sexual immorality and human infant sacrifices to idols. The reason for that is that both lead to death, which quite the opposite to what His Davar (word) is to us which brings life. Deuteronomy 6:2: that you might fear YHVH your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you, and your son, and your son's son, all the days of your life, and so that your days may be prolonged.
All of these commandments and statutes were given for one purpose only, HaShem demands that we be holy for He is Holy, Lev 20:26: And you shall be holy to Me. For I, YHVH, am holy, and have severed you from the nations, so that you should be Mine. So what is being holy, does it mean that we seclude ourselves in a monastery and walk around with white halo on our heads, UBSOLUTLY NOT! Kadosh in Hebrew means to be set apart, derived from Kadash. There is another word in Hebrew that also means set apart (Badal), however kadash and Kadosh is related to the fact that, this set apart process is related to and for God, that is we are set apart for God and His purpose, we are no longer common. Being holy or being set apart, then means that we no longer belong to this world, we are members of Malchuto HaShamayim “The Kingdom of Heaven”. What does it mean kingdom of heaven? HaShamayim is a circumlocution of God's Holy and Sacred name, יהוה (YHVH), similar to HaShem, in other words The Kingdom of God.
We live His Kingdom here on earth; it is not far above in heaven that you cannot reach it or far beyond the sea out of reach. It is where we are, in our office, our home where no one can see us, our car when we drive, wherever we stand, that is Malchuto HaShamayim. If we act like the world, we look like the world, dress like the world, talk like the world, I guess we are of the world. To be set apart is to be different, it must be noticeable, and people that we interact with, should notice that we are different. Let us not allow mediocrity to set in, it is an effort sometimes but the rewards of being set apart for HaShem, being Holy is not just for us but also for those around us. We are call to be the salt and the light of the earth. What is the purpose of both of these items, salt preserves, softens water, used to as safety by deicing the roads, a symbol of a covenant agreement, gives taste, and has medicinal purposes. Light is warmth; life springs forth from it, illuminates the path and gives clarity of the surroundings. Light is also used to guide to safety, serves as warning, highlights danger as well as signals a place of safety. If we are not holy we cannot be the salt and light to the world, that is because we are of the world. Which one am I? That should be the question in our lips.