When I left for college my freshman year, I was nervous about exploring a new Jewish community. However, I immediately felt at home as I walked into my university’s Hillel’s Conservative Friday night services and saw the Siddur Sim Shalom, the prayer book I had grown up with.
As a teenager, I would sit on my bedroom floor listening to old records of Belgian singer-songwriter, poet, and performer Jacques Brel. I didn’t need to keep a journal, because his lyrics wove together everything I felt at the time. Brel had a fire within, and his anger, longing, passion, and truth blazed through every word he sang. His music, raw and real, transformed and fed my soul; it informed and shaped who I am today.
In the game “Truth-or-Dare,” I choose “truth” nearly every time. I’m not much of a dare-taker. Thus, if you and I were playing “Special Edition Truth-or-Dare: High Holy Days,” I would confess that the prayer Avinu Malkeinu provides me with both my second-favorite liturgical moment and my second-greatest pet peeve of the year’s liturgy. (Note: Even though I may have to repent for it, I will leave you in suspense about my favorite liturgical moment and my greatest liturgical pet peeve. Also, “Special Edition Truth-or-Dare: High Holy Days” is fictional, although I hereby declare copyright in the event Mattel or Hasbro comes knocking at my door.)
Acharei Mot, the first of this week's two parashiyot, begins on an unsettling note—a reminder of the death of Aaron's sons and the suggestion that such tragedies might occur again unless the priests take specified steps to prevent them
In this week's double parashah, Acharei Mot/K'doshim, there's a one-sentence reference to the mortal sin of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, who brought "alien fire" into the Mishkan, which we read about in Parashat Sh'mini two weeks ago (see Leviticus 10:1-7).
As the great flood story begins, we learn that Noah was "a righteous man; in his generation he was above reproach" (Genesis 6:9) and we wonder what kind of compliment has Noah just been paid.
In Leviticus 18:3, in Acharei Mot, it is written, "You shall not copy the practices of the land of Egypt where you dwelt, or of the land of Canaan to which I am taking you."
You shall each revere your mother and your father, and keep My sabbaths: I the Eternal am your God. (Leviticus 19:3)
In the first part of this week's parashah, Acharei Mot/K'doshim, the Torah's fullest description of Yom Kippur appears. (Leviticus 16:2-34) But Holy Days, holidays, and festivals develop and evolve as human life changes.