Acharei Mot-Kedoshim (Lev. 16:1-20:27)

A double portion, but not that long overall, and the two parts together make an interesting whole. “Acharei Mot” means “after the death of,” of Aaron’s two oldest sons in this case. Aaron receives detailed instructions concerning entering the Holy of Holies so that he will not die like them. [This always brings to mind the possibility of rewriting this as science fiction – divine voice=extraterrestrial, cloud by day and pillar of fire by night are caused by advanced technology which kills Nadav and Avihu when they inadvertently trigger a protective mechanism, and so on. But I digress.] What follows are the prescribed details of Aaron’s Yom Kippur service – and indeed, we read this on Yom Kippur – of offering sacrifices and making atonement (according to Rashi, “making atonement” refers to confession of sins, not to the sacrifices) for himself, his household, and the Israelites, purifying the Holy of Holies, altar and Tent of Meeting, and driving a scapegoat into the wilderness. This segues into a section concerning ritual holiness among the people, including not eating blood or animals were torn or died naturally, and abstaining from forbidden sexual relationships. Parashat Kedoshim (“holy,” plural), also referred to as the Holiness Code, is a compendium of commandments, some readily understandable (e.g., don’t commit fraud or deal dishonestly, pay employees promptly, judge fairly, respect parents and elders, take care of the needy), some understandable literally and also metaphorically (e.g., don’t curse the deaf or place a stumbling block in front of the blind or stand by the blood of your brother) and some that make us scratch our heads (e.g., don’t wear cloth from a mixture of two materials). All of this boils down to verse 19:1: “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”

But what is meant by “holiness”? Rabbi Ilan Emanuel of Toronto wrote ( ) “To be holy means to make an effort to separate ourselves from the everyday and usual and set time aside in our lives to focus on the spiritual…But…holiness is also part of how we interact with the world,…how we relate to others”. Generally, in Judaism, we say something or someone is holy when it or s/he is set apart as being special. Thus, the holy Sabbath (“Shabbat kodesh”) is set apart from the rest of the week, and a wife is set apart from other women in the part of the marriage service called “kiddushin”. Certainly at this stage in the development of the Israelites as a people, the Lord wants to keep them apart from the Canaanites, so that the people would not “pollute” the land by adopting the Canaanite ways the Lord found abhorrent (20:22-24). And the theme of separateness resonates in the clean versus unclean dichotomy. Further, the punishment decreed in Acharei Mot (e.g., for eating blood) is to be cut off (“karet”) from the people, generally interpreted to mean premature death, but in any event, separated out. Maimonides regarded “You shall be holy” as a general exhortation to follow the commandments through restraint, e.g., restraint by not indulging in the forbidden sexual relationships. Rashi felt that it means abstaining from sin in general and the forbidden sexual relationships, so it’s more of a link with the previous chapter than an introduction to the laws that follow. Nachmanides, on the other hand, sees it as calling for restraint more generally, in personal conduct, ritual purity, and the social sphere. Following the laws/restraints is what will make them holy. Or, as summarized by Nehama Leibowitz in New Studies in Vayikra, p. 268, “Thus all of man’s life must be informed by the holy in keeping with the Rabbinic dictum (Yevamot 20a): ‘Sanctify yourself in that which you are permitted.”

Shabbat shalom,




A worker was called on the carpet by his supervisor for talking back to his foreman. “Is it true that you called him a liar?
“Yes, I did.”
“Did you call him stupid?”
“And did you call him an opinionated, egomaniac asshole?”
“No, but would you write that down so I can remember it?”


Corporate Scandal Joke

“Earlier this week the Senate voted 97-to-0 for tougher regulations. For example, when corporations buy a senator, they must now get a receipt.”

— Jay Leno


Respect for the Elderly

The oldest trees often bear the sweetest fruit”   German Proverb

Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant with the weak and the wrong. Sometime in your life you will have been all of these.”    Dr. Robert H. Goddard (American rocket engineer 18821945)

I grow old learning something new everyday.”   Solon (Athenian statesman and poet, 630-560 BC)

Old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.”    Francis Bacon, Sr. (EnglishLawyer and Philosopher. 15611626)


Parking Space

A minister parked his car in a no-parking zone in a large city because he was short of time and couldn’t find a space with a meter.
Then he put a note under the windshield wiper that read:

“I have circled the block 10 times. If I don’t park here, I’ll miss my

When he returned, he found a citation from a police officer along with this note.

“I’ve circled this block for 10 years. If I don’t give you a ticket, I’ll lose my job.


(from 2001)

The bovine version of the 5th commandment:

Honor thy fodder and thy mother and all your udder relatives.


This is how Kedoshim teaches not to behave!

The Toddlers Creed

by Dr. Burton L. White
Submitted by Heather Haas 08-04-01

If I want it,
If I give it to you and change my mind later,
If I can take it away from you,
If it’s mine it will never belong to anybody else,
No matter what.
If we are building something together,
All the pieces are mine!
If it looks just like mine,
If it breaks or needs putting away,

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