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Aiming Higher for a Life of Human Holiness

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. 

D'var Torah By: 
The Power of the Individual
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Diana Fersko

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.

What Judaism Says About the Golden Rule

For the last few years, I have been a member of a local hospital’s ethics committee.

D'var Torah By: 
Working Toward a Shared Goal of Holiness
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Aimee Gerace

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

Blood and Sex: The Messy Stuff of Life

For the life of all flesh — its blood is its life. Therefore I say to the Israelite people: You shall not partake of the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood. Anyone who partakes of it shall be cut off. (Leviticus 17:14)

The Book of Leviticus could be nicknamed "The Journal of Blood and Water." Throughout its chapters we find the words tamei — translated as "impure," and tahor — translated as "pure"  as markers of a system of taboos so strong, the penalty for daring to dismiss them is kareit, or "excommunication." The taboos for certain sexual practices are painstakingly outlined in chapter 18, the section of Acharei Mot that we read on this Shabbat.

D'var Torah By: 
Blood: The Gift of Life
Davar Acher By: 
Andrea Goldstein

A number of years ago my husband came home from work wearing a sticker that read, "I saved a life today." Our children were young and just becoming fascinated with the adventures of comic book superheroes, so when they saw my husband's sticker their minds began racing.

"Did you save someone from a bank robber?" one asked, almost gleefully.

"Nope," my husband shook his head and smiled.

"Did you pull someone out of a car that was going to explode?" another guessed, with eyes hopefully wide.

"No," he said again.

After a few more questions, our youngest couldn't stand the suspense. "What did you do to save somebody's life today?" she demanded.

"I donated blood," my husband said.

A Rambling Rose

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.

D'var Torah By: 
Don't Make It Personal
Davar Acher By: 
Stephen Kahn

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

Just Like Me, They Long(ed) to Be Close to You

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

D'var Torah By: 
I'll Keep Working My Way Back to You (God) with a Burning Love Inside
Davar Acher By: 
Marci R. Bloch

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.

Being Holy - and Staying Alive

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

D'var Torah By: 
A Self-Reflective God
Davar Acher By: 
Elizabeth W. Goldstein

Sometimes a dream dies. And the death of that dream becomes the focal point for how we choose to shape the future.

Stretching to Make Sense (And Not Fully Succeeding)

This week's Torah portion, Acharei Mot, "After the death" [of two of Aaron's sons], continues the focus on ritual purity that began earlier in Leviticus, and begins the section of the book

D'var Torah By: 
Relieving Ourselves of the Burden of Our Sins, Not the Sins Themselves
Davar Acher By: 
Howard L. Jaffe

It is fascinating to note that the goat sent off to Azazel (whatever that actually means) "shall carry on it all their iniquities to an inaccessible region" and shall be "set free in the wilderness

What Does It Mean to Be Holy?

In the democratic society of Israel, we with struggle the concept of what it means to be am chofshi b’artzeinu, “a free people in our land.” We ask, “What does the responsibility of freedo

D'var Torah By: 
Simple in Definition; Complex in Action
Davar Acher By: 
Matthew D. Gewirtz

“Holy” is a word we use often but are never quite sure how to define.

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