In Parashat Acharei Mot, we read: "You must keep My laws and My rules, you must not do any of those abhorrent things, neither the citizen nor the stranger who resides among you; for all those abhorrent things were done by the people who were in the land before and the land became defiled. So let not the land vomit you out for defiling it, as it spewed out the nation that came before you." (Lev. 18:26-28). ... In Torah, we see rain as relationship, an earth woven with ethic. Blessing is felt through pastoral plentitude, punishment through agricultural atrophy.
Today, we hear a lot about power: military power, corporate power, and political power. We don’t hear as much about personal power. But, in this week’s Torah portion, Acharei Mot/K’doshim, a double portion, we learn about the potential for personal power. It follows Acharei Mot (“After the Death” of Aaron’s sons) and instructions about purity. In Acharei Mot, we follow the unfortunate outcome of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, who brought an alien fire into the Tent of Meeting, which was an affront to God and Moses. Personal power isn’t a sin, but the misapplication of it can lead to horrific outcomes. In K’doshim, we open with the Holiness Code and within it a credible means to personal power that also reflects God’s holiness.
Individual power. In his commentary, Rabbi Lyon reminds us that Acharei Mot focuses on the immense power that individuals can possess. That emphasis could not be more timely. Day after day, we see teens, galvanized by the horrors of gun violence, raising their voices in rage and protest... While we don’t know their exact age, Nadab and Abihu were also young people. Like the victims of school shootings, their end was shockingly abrupt and profoundly tragic. They led lives cut too short without justification. Commentators have worked hard for centuries to create narratives of meaning around the deaths of these young people.
For the last few years, I have been a member of a local hospital’s ethics committee.
In these turbulent political times, it may sometimes feel easier to withdraw, to choose to not engage with our community members around difficult topics — particularly those community members who d
He shall be dressed in a sacral linen tunic, with linen breeches next to his flesh, and be girt with a linen sash, and he shall wear a linen turban. They are sacral vestments; he shall bathe his body in water and then put them on. (Leviticus 16:4)
A few years ago, I was in Jerusalem in a Chasidic neighborhood, surrounded by stores carrying tallitot, kippot, and all sorts of Judaica. To my utter shock, prominently displayed in one store's window was a bright pink tallis! I went inside and started talking to the owner, a Chasid in full regalia: black coat, knickers, side curls, and fur-trimmed shtreimel hat. "Who would buy a pink tallit?" I asked. "A bat mitzvah girl of course," this Chasid said, with no hesitation. ". . . no, not the girls in my community," he added, "but in yours, sure, why not?"
Our tradition braves the middle ground between materialism and the denial of aesthetic power. To make worship solely about our attire undermines its power to elevate us beyond the physical realm. To ignore ritual garb overlooks a meaningful way, in the words of Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, to "take off the earthly street… when we arrive at the shul door, and feel closer to the angels."
In the first part of this week's parashah, Acharei Mot/K'doshim, the Torah's fullest description of Yom Kippur appears.
Rabbi Sherman offers us eternal lessons for the long-lasting effects that Yom Kippur can and should have on us throughout the year.
You shall each revere your mother and your father, and keep My sabbaths: I the Eternal am your God. (Leviticus 19:3)
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 y
Rabbi Zoë Klein interprets a verse from Acharei Mot (Leviticus 18:6) teaching us not to uncover or reveal the vulnerabilities of the people who are closest to us.
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.
Every now and then, while I am driving around, I listen to AM talk radio to hear the latest fare from commentators from the "right" and the "left." Based on what I hear, it appears the sole p
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
In our "get-it-now" culture, we have come to expect everything we want in an instant. We are hooked on instant messaging, instant answers to our searches, even instant coffee.