Torah Portion: Acharei Mot (After the Death) (Leviticus) Vayikra 16-18
Haftorah Reading: Ezekiel 22:1-19
Tonight we look at a Torah portion that covers two main connected points, morality and forgiveness. I want us to look at both of these in some depth. Let’s begin with forgiveness. A large part of this Torah portion has to do with the details of and preparation for the day of Yom Kippur. First, what do the words Yom Kippur mean? Yom is the Hebrew word for day and Kippur is the Hebrew word for covering. This was/is the time to come together as a people and confess their sins and ask G-d to forgive them. This process covered everyone from the greatest to the least. Everyone sought forgiveness on this day. It is mentioned in the New Testament in Acts 27:9 where we see Paul, on his way to Rome, mentioning The Fast which would have been Yom Kippur. So it would seem that the early Jewish believers continued to observe this and the other Biblical holy days.
It is important to point out that all sins were forgiven on Yom Kippur save one. This one sin required taking action first before it would be forgiven. What is it? It is a sin where we have wronged another person. The sin could be gossip, telling a lie about someone or many other things. Whatever it was, we see this idea expressed in Matthew 5:23-24 where Yeshua makes the point clearly. The good news is that G-d forgives us when we come to Him with a humble heart.
In Leviticus 18:4 and in Leviticus 26:3 we are told to be going, not standing still. As people of G-d we are expected to be moving ahead in our faith daily. To not be moving means we will be in danger of sliding backwards. So the question arises, why is it so hard, especially in this area, to admit w have sinned? We know and hear everyday excuses coming out of our mouths or from other people of why we did what we did. We quickly rationalize, justify and deny. We rarely are able to say with no qualifications, “I have sinned.” In a way this was the point of Yom Kippur, to say, “I did it, I sinned.” I believe that for us knowing that G-d forgives us we need not fear being banished from His presence. He knows us already. What we do is not hidden from Him. By admitting and asking for forgiveness exposes our sin to the light of day and the sin loses its power over us. May we all be able to grasp this principle and have the courage to admit to G-d and to people we have hurt that we have sinned. G-d forgives!
Next I want us to take a few minutes to speak about morality. This portion has a great deal to say about the subject. What is morality and how do we come to a decision on what is moral or not? Remember, as a nation of priests it is very important how we live before the world. How do we come to a definition of morality? Here in our portion we read what G-d’s word has to say about those issues that arise from our sexual nature. This is one of the strongest drives that man contends with. When Israel entered the Land of Israel they were exposed to the local definition of moral behavior. So here in our portion we read of G-d’s direction for them as a people. These prohibitions we read about were not exclusively to do with Temple practice but more importantly had to do with day to day life, what happens when we are home or when we think no one else will know.
We see here G-d’s word lays out forbidden relationships and practices. These are forbidden any time anywhere and forever. They do not depend on what society says is okay Society changes daily. Here G-d sets out guidelines that are forbidden, end of story.
Yet today in our country, state and town we see all or most of these things going on around us and yet almost no voice is raised against them. Or where we hear objections they tend to be mean spirited. However, we as G-d people are called, no admonished, to live not by society’s moral low but by G-d’s Word. By living a moral life and speaking with compassion about the right and wrong of what has become common practice, we might have some chance of changing minds and hearts. However whether we change hearts or minds is not the measurement we must look at. Our focus must always be on G-d and His word, not on what the decisions of people or government dictates. We are a holy priesthood and our private lives and our public life has to reflect that everyday. May G-d give us the insight to see what is wrong and what is right and to always choose life.