Friday, May 05, 2006

DVAR TORAH: Acharei Mot/Kedoshim

Feliz Cinco De Mayo, México.
Un Sábado bueno y soñoliento a todos.
El queso es viejo y repugnante.
¡Lance mi burrito inmediatamente, vaca fea y gorda!
¿Usted besa a su madre con esa boca?

Once I locate the dvar torah I gave in April 2002 on this Parasha I will post it, bli neder. For now, I want so simply state that I believe that these parshiot give us the essential reason for doing mitzvot: "You shall be holy for I your Lord am Holy". Mitzvot not only bring us closer to God, but also to humanity. Remember Hillel who paraphrases the famous verse from this parasha to the flamingoed prostelyte: "Love your neighbor as yourself" The rest is just commentary.

Shabbat Shalom,


This was originally written for the Shabbat of April 20, 2002 delivered at Seudah Shlishit at the Columbia Barnard Hillel. I updated it the next year for a Dvar Torah I gave at a weeknight Koach Mincha/Maariv (This is the version from 2002 as the 2003 was edited by hand)

Acharei Mot / Kedoshim
Matt Rutta

One could write a million Yom Kippur sermons about parashat Acharei Mot, and there probably have been because Chapters 16 and 18 of Vayikra, both in parashat Acharei Mot, are the respectively the Torah readings of Shacharit and Mincha of Yom Kippur. I therefore would like to focus on this week’s second Torah portion, Kedoshim.
In last week’s double portions of Tazria/Metzora we were instructed on how to confront leprosy and leperous people, the unclean and impure. However, I could not find a location in either of these parshiot in which we are told how we can avoid tzoras in the first place. Miriam got leprosy because she gossiped, if you looked at Vayikra 19:16, you would see that gossiping is forbidden if one wishes to be Holy. קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ כִּי קָדֹושׁ אֲנִי ה' אֱ-לֹהֵיכֶֽם׃ . Through Moses, G-d tells us “You shall be Holy, for I, the Lord thy G-d, Am Holy”.
This parsha is overrun with mitzvot. I counted at least fifty. Following these mitzvot is the way to attain Holiness. Here are some of the ways to be holy: Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal, don’t falsely swear on G-d’s name, don’t curse the deaf, don’t put a stumbling block before the blind, fear G-d, don’t gossip, don’t stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.
In my eleventh grade Foundations of Jewish Law Honors class, we focused much attention on Vayikra 19:17-18.
‏לֹֽא־תִשְׂנָא אֶת־אָחִיךָ בִּלְבָבֶךָ הֹוכֵחַ תֹּוכִיחַ אֶת־עֲמִיתֶךָ וְלֹא־תִשָּׂא עָלָיו חֵֽטְא׃
‏לֹֽא־תִקֹּם וְלֹֽא־תִטֹּר אֶת־בְּנֵי עַמֶּךָ ׃

I translated this as “Don’t hate your brother in your heart, you shall surely rebuke your fellow countryman and don’t cause him to sin.” Not only are we commanded to be holy, but apparently we are also supposed to make sure that our fellows can also attain holiness
Hillel’s famous saying: If I am only for myself, what am I? You’re not holy, that’s for sure. You need to look out for yourself and your neighbor, as the next line, one of the most famous in scripture, states:
'וְאָֽהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוךָ אֲנִי ה
“And you are to love your neighbor as yourself”. And as Hillel said to the skeptic on one foot, the rest is just commentary. Shabbat Shalom!

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