Torah Portion: Acharei Mot (After the death) & Kedoshim (Holy) (Leviticus) Vayikra 16-20
Haftorah Reading: Ezekiel 22:1-19 & 20:2-20
Tonight we read two Torah Sections again. These sections cover the laws governing Yom Kippur, the commandments dealing with inter-personal relationships, sexual sins and other issues that have to do with leading a holy life in our world today. Often we read these words and have difficulty seeing a connection to our life today in our modern enlightened society. I pray by the end of tonight we will be able to grasp what these two portions say to us personally.
I want to begin with the commandments in Vayikra 19:18. We find these same words in Mark 12:31, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Does that surprise you? This principle stands at the foundation of both Judaism and the Messiah’s teaching. My question was what does it mean and how do we implement them in our lives? It seems almost impossible to accomplish.
Maybe our viewpoint is the problem. We often are focusing on the physical aspects of a person or how we perceive them. Maybe our focus should be reframed to be able to look at a person with spiritual eyes.
The real person is not the body that we see but rather the breath of G-d, the soul. I think this is where our focus should be. Our challenge is the tendency to label people based on how they appear. We see it everyday in our society, liberal, conservative, poor, rich, dirty, clean. Those are not where we must keep our focus. Vayikra tells us that that we should strive to see people as G-d sees them and not be clouded by outward appearance. Some of us might give preference to the poor and down trodden. Others might give preference to the rich and famous. Neither is correct. It takes real work on our part to love those unlike ourselves. Yeshua was able to do this. We have to be able to recognize our tendency to categorize people. We can learn to be more patient and forgiving. “You shall be holy, for I the L-rd your G-d am holy.” Lev. 19:2
Now all this leads me to my next topic for us to consider. In Leviticus two chapters, beginning with chapter 19, we read verses about what it means to be holy. What do you see as a common idea in chapters 19 and 20 of Leviticus? These two chapters are mainly concerned with setting boundaries and limits in our lives. This is expressed in one Hebrew word in Lev. 20:23. It is the small Hebrew word, “Lo” or no in English. This verse begins with, “And you shall Not”. In Hebrew there are two words that can be translated as “No.” The other word is “Al”. If I want to tell you to not do something right now, temporarily not do this thing, the word “Al” is used. If I want to tell you to never do something the word used would be, “Lo.” In our verse here G-d says, “Lo.” Israel was not to walk in the ways or statutes of the nations G-d was expelling from the Land. So when we read our chapters we should look at the things talked about here as eternal.
Many of the things to be avoided were sexual sins. Many were dealing with how we conduct our lives. We are to honor our Mother and Father. We are to not cheat anyone in our business dealings. We are to be fair and honest in every situation. We are to not be involved with sorcery, witchcraft or any other thing that allows us to be led by something other than G-d. Gal. 5:19-21. In I Timothy 6:11 we read what we are to pursue. When we read this we see how pursuing these will keep us from the things prohibited here in our reading today. Our society is mainly driven by things that seek to assimilate us into its agenda; the seduction that getting and having is the read road to happiness. Tolerance is the guiding light, as long as it does not hurt anyone it is okay, no matter what G-d’s word says. We are called to stand for what G-d says, what He allows, to resist anything that leads us away from G-d’s purpose.
In scripture the role of the priest was to, “Lahavdil” or to divide. We practice it every Shabbat evening when we do Havdala, separating the holy day from the other days of the week. G-d is a G-d of order. Life has boundaries. We should have boundaries. G-d has order and our lives must have order. There are things we are commanded not to do, no negotiation. When G-d says no that should settle the question for us. In these chapters we read of many things that are forbidden. Why? Because as G-d is holy so are we to be holy. We are to be able to discern what is right from what is wrong.
I pray these chapters and verses stick in your spirit everyday for we are to be holy.