The opening line of this portion, "The Eternal One spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they drew too close to the presence of the Eternal" (Leviticus 16:1), reminds us that the holy is not only attractive, but also dangerous.
Why does the Torah mention the deaths of Nadab and Abihu here in Acharei Mot, when the story of their deaths was told in its entirety in Parashat Sh'mini? What is it that the Torah is trying to teach us through this repetition?
Way back in July 1990, when my daughter Katie was two years old, Ellen turned to our little girl and said, "Tell Daddy something he doesn't know." Katie whispered, smiling shyly, "Today is Mommy's birthday." Can you say doghouse?
The point of being Jewish is to have a relationship with God. Yet, a relationship implies a certain give and take, and there is precious little in the Torah that talks about what we have that God could possibly need. What can we give to God?
At the end of Parashat Emor, a disturbing incident is related. In the heat of a fight, a man curses God and is stoned to death for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:10-23). It is understandable that readers may be repulsed by this narrative, and shocked and angry to find it in the Torah.
The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: "Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: These are My fixed times, the fixed times of the Eternal, which you shall proclaim as sacred occasions."
Every Yom Kippur afternoon, congregations all over the world read the Book of Jonah, as set out for us in the Babylonian Talmud, M'gillah 31a. Most people believe that this haftarah is chosen because it models complete repentance.
Decades ago, Rabbi Jack Reimer explained Yom Kippur for me this way. It's not saying: I'm sorry I was bad and I won't do it again. That's only a Sunday school, superficial expression of something much deeper and spiritually far more important.