For the week ending 6 May 2017 / 10 Iyyar 5777

Parshat Achrei Mot - Kedoshim

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Acharei Mot

G-d instructs the kohanim to exercise extreme care when they enter the Mishkan. On Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol is to approach the holiest part of the Mishkan after special preparations and wearing special clothing. He brings offerings unique to Yom Kippur, including two identical goats that are designated by lottery. One is "for G-d" and is offered in the Temple, while the other is "for Azazel" in the desert. The Torah states the individual's obligations on Yom Kippur: On the 10th day of the seventh month, one must afflict oneself. We abstain from eating and drinking, anointing, wearing leather footwear, washing, and marital relations.

Consumption of blood is prohibited. The blood of slaughtered birds and undomesticated beasts must be covered. The people are warned against engaging in the wicked practices that were common in Egypt. Incest is defined and prohibited. Marital relations are forbidden during a woman's monthly cycle. Homosexuality, bestiality and child sacrifice are prohibited.


The nation is enjoined to be holy. Many prohibitions and positive commandments are taught:

Prohibitions: Idolatry; eating offerings after their time-limit; theft and robbery; denial of theft; false oaths; retention of someone's property; delaying payment to an employee; hating or cursing a fellow Jew (especially one's parents); gossip; placing physical and spiritual stumbling blocks; perversion of justice; inaction when others are in danger; embarrassing; revenge; bearing a grudge; cross-breeding; wearing a garment of wool and linen; harvesting a tree during its first three years; gluttony and intoxication; witchcraft; shaving the beard and sideburns; tattooing.

Positive: Awe for parents and respect for the elderly; leaving part of the harvest for the poor; loving others (especially a convert); eating in Jerusalem the fruits from a tree's 4th year; awe for the Temple; respect for Torah scholars, the blind and the deaf.


Doing and Guarding

“...My judgments you shall do, and My decrees you shall guard.” (13:17)

When speaking about judgments (mishpatim), the Torah says, “you shall do," but when referring to the decrees (chukim) it says "you shall guard".

Why does the Torah change the verb?

The Rambam in chapter six of “Shmoneh Perakim” says that Sages of the Talmud consider that someone whose personality inclines him to sin, and yet he controls his urge, is on a higher level than someone who tends to the good, whereas “philosophers” maintain that someone who is naturally disposed to the good is on a higher than someone whose nature is drawn to sin but refrains from doing so.

He goes on to say that both are true.

When it comes to the commandments of Torah that one’s intellect would anyway oblige, such as stealing and murder, it's true that a person who has no negative tendency is on a higher level. However, when it comes to the Torah's supra-logical commandments — the chukim — then someone who would like to transgress, but doesn't, is on a higher level.

We see this in the words of the Sages: Don't say “I can't stand pork,” rather say, “I could certainly eat it, but what can I do? My Father in Heaven forbids it.”

"My judgments," the 'logical' commandments "you shall do," even though you would instinctively do them anyway, "and My decrees you will guard," merely because of the Torah's command.

  • Sources: Ba’al Kitzur Shuchan Aruch, Aperion, as seen in Talelei Orot

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