Torah Portion: Acharei Mot (After the death) Leviticus 16:1-18:30 Kedoshim (Holy People) Leviticus 19:1-20:27
Haftorah Reading: Ezekiel 22:1-19
This week we again read two portions of Torah. The first, coming after the death of Aaron’s two sons, and the next addressed to the holy ones, which at the time, was the Jewish people who had just come out of Egypt. Both of these sections are filled with many commandments of how G-d’s people are to live their daily life after being taken out of slavery and beginning their journey to the Promised Land.
Remember, they had been slaves for over 200 years and now they were free. So, the question comes, how are they to live their day to day lives? After Passover, tradition tells us that the Israelites journeyed another 49 days to arrive at Mt Sinai, where they received the Torah. This period of time is now observed as counting the Omer. As I studied this week I came to a deeper understanding of the purpose of this counting of days.
True the people were set free as soon as they crossed over the Reed Sea, much as we are set free from sin when we come to faith in the Messiah. However, they were in no way prepared for facing their new life as free men. They had much to learn. This applies to us all.
After our commitment to the Messiah we are babies as far as knowing how to live our life as believers. We need time to learn what this means. How must we live daily in this faith we have committed to? I think these chapters today give us some guidance in who we are and what our faith requires of each of us.
I say all this to encourage you to not waste a day but by study and prayer, come to a more mature understanding of what it means to be a part of the people of G-d. Counting the days of the Omer can help. As each day is counted it should remind us of who we are and who we are to become. My questions of the week were meant to help us along this path. By the way, today is the 22nd of the 49 day count that will end in scripture with the giving of the Torah. I pray each day will bring you closer than the day before in grasping all that G-d requires of His people.
Included in our readings are many commandments that challenge us. Probably two of the most complex ones are found in Leviticus 19:18, where we read, “Love your neighbor as yourself, I am the L-rd.” In Leviticus 19:34 we read, “The stranger living among you must be treated as your native born. Love him as yourself, for you were strangers in Egypt. I am the L-rd your G-d.” These two commandments, which we have heard most of our lives, admonishes us to love our neighbor, even if they are strangers. Both end with the words, “I am the L-rd.” These words are coming from the mouth of G-d Himself. There is no room here for argument. So how do we do them? How do they become a part of our life and faith?
First, let us look at the prevailing mood of our country. Are these two commandments a framework for how people act around us? If not, why not? Remember, most of the people around us express some faith in G-d. It may not be exactly as we practice but nevertheless some faith in G-d. So, the question arises, why do we not see this love as the motivating force behind our actions?
To help us I would like to look back to Genesis where we read about the creation of man in Genesis 1:27. We read where man was created in the image of G-d. I believe in each of us there is that spark of G-d. We all carry it whether we recognize it or not. G-d created us because He loves us. He wants us to love each other because we are all in that image of G-d.
G-d expects our love to be expressed, not in some abstract form, but in the concrete way of seeing people as our neighbors and even the stranger as being in the image of G-d. So, we help and reach out even to people who may not be the same color or the same faith, etc. The list goes on. G-d loves them all and so we are expected to do the same. To do less is to live as the world lives. We must flee from the cruel speech and callous actions we see around us every day. We are to be different, set apart. We are children of the King.
Finally, let me say just a few words about another characteristic of G-d. He is a G-d of order. The most obvious examples again come from Genesis chapter one where G-d separated light from darkness, land from water and so on. G-d shows us that everything has its place. From that we see the Shabbat separated from the other days of the week. We need a time, a day in the week to step out of the world and stop our daily race. We need time to recharge, time to connect with family. Time to connect with our Creator. I would urge you to take a day, to stop and rest, and rejuvenate spiritually. Your body and your spirit need it.