Ahare-Kedoshim – Perasha Synopsis

This week we read two Perashot.

Perashat Ahare revisits the death of Aharon’s sons Nadab and Abihu, who died in a previous chapter for bringing a foreign fire into the Tabernacle. This perasha connects their deaths to the Yom Kippur service, and their entry into a forbidden area of the Tabernacle.  The service for Yom Kippur as performed by the Kohen Gadol – High Priest, is quite intricate. Aharon designates two he-goats, one to be used as a sin offering, the other to be sent to Azazel in the wilderness, both signifying the atonement of sins. The process of atonement is both for Bene Yisrael, and for Aharon himself. The Torah commands us to commemorate Yom Kippur each year on the tenth day of the seventh month (10 Tishre).

Bene Yisrael are prohibited from eating blood, and they are commanded to cover all blood that is spilled from an animal. The Torah then turns to discuss immorality and illicit relationships. The deeds of the Canaanites and the Egyptians were the most abominable of all the nations therefore, G-d specifically warned the Jews to be alert to the challenges of their environment given the nations that they lived in.  The Torah enumerates the laws governing intimate relationships which are the key to Jewish holiness. The concluding verses of the perasha provide an important insight into the holiness of Erez Yisrael. The Land’s holiness is such that it cannot tolerate the impurity described in the preceding verses to the point of expelling all inhabitants that engage in such illicit activities.

Perashat Kedoshim begins enumerating the laws that are fundamental to all Israel. ‘Kedoshim’ – meaning to be holy, is the purpose of all these laws. By abstaining from illicit relations and practicing temperance and moderation even in matters which are permitted, one can become holy. The purpose of this holiness is for people to elevate their lives, and the way to do it is to emulate G-d as much as it is possible and by scrupulous adherence to the commandments.

These laws and commandments include respect for parents, keeping Shabbat, prohibition of idolatry, refraining from stealing and bearing false witness, obligation to give charity, imparting justice and abstaining from being a tale bearer.

The Torah includes, as part of the support to the poor, the portions of one’s field and of the harvest, and describes the proper behavior between man and his fellow man. Honest dealings and loving thy fellow neighbor are deemed of utmost importance.  There are laws which deal with kilayim – forbidden mixtures of species, seeds, or fabrics. The Torah discusses agricultural laws and the importance of accuracy when a business person deals with weights and measures. The importance of honesty and integrity is emphasized throughout the Perasha.

Hashem expects Bene Yisrael to be a holy nation, and to avoid the practices of the nations which surround them. The Perasha ends with the laws of Kashrut to emphasize the need for holiness, and finishes with a clear statement outlawing sorcery which is severely condemned.

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