Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Acharei Mot / Yayikra 16:1 – 18:30

Acharei Mot / Yayikra 16:1 – 18:30         “after” / Leviticus 16:1 – 18:30
Sun. 16:1-17 / Mon. 16:18-24 / Tues. 16:25-34 / Wed. 17:1-7
Thurs. 17:8-18:5 / Fri. 18:6-21 / Shabbat 18:22-30
Friday 18:6 – 21

            As I began reading for this week’s writing, it seemed appropriate to me to pick up our discussion at today’s portion, and not because it seems very “cut and dried,” which it does appear to be.
            Any time I read this portion it seems to answer one question that I have, yet it also produces another one, for which I have yet to find a satisfactory answer for myself.  With that in mind I will delve into the reading.
            Surprising to no one, I would say that the key word in this parashah is “nakedness”, for it occurs a minimum of twenty-one times.  The word also appears in every verse except the ultimate one of this reading.
            The main point seems to be that if someone is related to you in any near-relative fashion, you are not to be intimate with that individual.  Their nakedness does not belong to you; you have no right to be with them, for their nakedness belongs to another, even if at the time it only belongs to them.  For the most part, these commands seem common sense to most of us, I presume. 
            Regardless, as I stated before, two questions come to mind as I study our reading.  The first query takes me back to B’reisheet (Genesis) 9:20 – 27.  The incident being referred to is when Noah became drunk, uncovered himself in his tent, and then Ham saw his father’s nakedness.
            There are various theories as to what actually happened in this cryptically “unrevealing” passage, but there is one that I tend to favor.  I would propose that Ham lay with his own mother, and that Canaan was the fruit of that union, hence he was the one who was cursed.  (Please do not ask me why Ham was not cursed, for I do not know.)  I am presuming that either Noah knew what happened after he awoke from his drunken stupor because his wife had told him, or he knew something was up when his wife’s pregnancy became noticeable, though I suppose he could have thought the pregnancy was his.  Notwithstanding, if Ham had been intimate with his own mother he had uncovered his father’s nakedness according to Vayikra 18:8.
            I will confess that it could be considered that Ham had a time of intimacy with his father, for Vayikra 18:7 could be used for support in that instance.  However, I personally have a more difficult time with Noah awakening and knowing what his son had done to him.  It is possible, but not as likely according to the thoughts rattling around in my cranium.
            My second question, perhaps you have been able to guess, emanates from the book of Ruth.  Ah, you know the story.  Chapter 3, verses seven through fourteen is the site of this incident.  As I am reading this in preparation, perhaps I have had my question answered regarding this Scripture.  Perhaps not.
            As Noah was after a harvest, so is Boaz – drunk.  The difference I see is that while Ham uncovered his father’s nakedness, Ruth only uncovered Boaz’ feet.  As I muse on this, perhaps this is a way of showing that she is and is willing to remain in submission to him.  After all, it seems that all she did was to uncover his feet.  There is no indication that she covered herself with his skirt (kanaph – TwotOT #1003a, pp. 446 – 447), but she did ask him to do so in verse 9.  From the context, it is now apparent to me that this was a figurative request for him to perform the duty of a kinsman redeemer, for the Scripture speaks not of him covering her in this locale.  Nay, he told her that he would do what needed to be done in the morning.  At that point, she lay back down at his feet.
            Well, pending our discussion and any comments that may be applied to this week’s parashah, I think I have had my question answered regarding Ruth and Boaz, and to my relief, their integrity seems to have remained.
            In closing, let us consider that for those of us who are married, our nakedness is not only ours, but it is our spouse’s as well according to Vayikra 18:7 – 8.  Likewise, the nakedness of one to whom we are not married is not ours, and as we have been told before, we are not to covet nor are we to steal.

            May HaShem’s name be blessed in the discussion of this reading.  Shalom.

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