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

 This week, we read a not overly long double Torah portion, Acharei Mot (“after the death of,” referring to Aaron’s sons) and Kedoshim (“holy”).  They present both ritual and behavioral expectations of the Israelites and make it clear both are required.  Acharei Mot (Lev. 16:1-18:30) deals with the atonement rituals of Yom Kippur, including how Aaron can safely enter the Holy of Holies; ritual purification; and forbidden sexual relationships, mainly incest.  It includes sacrifices, blood sprinkling, the equation blood=life, and driving a scapegoat into the wilderness.  Appropriately, most of Acharei Mot is read at the morning and afternoon services on Yom Kippur.

While Acharei Mot largely deals with expiation for past misdeeds, Kedoshim (Lev. 19:1-20:27) prescribes how to behave from now on. Kedoshim immediately gets to its point (19:1): “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” The rest of the portion tells us how, and Ch. 19 is often referred to as the Holiness Code (some define this as Lev. 17-27).  Some laws are puzzling, like a law against rounding the corners of one’s beard.  Easier to accept are commands like helping the needy, being fair and honest, using honest weights and measures, not taking advantage (e.g., by insulting the deaf or putting a literal or figurative stumbling block in front of the blind), respecting the aged, and loving the stranger as yourself.

Thus, we get an idea of what being holy entails, but holiness per se is not defined, except that it is an attribute of the Lord.  At I found this definition:

KEDUSHAH (Heb. קְדֻשָּׁה). The biblical term for holiness is kodesh; mishnaic Hebrew, kedushah, and that which is regarded as holy is called kadosh. Jewish exegetes, following early rabbinic interpretation (Sifra) of Leviticus 19:2: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy,” have consistently taken the verb kadesh to mean “distinguished, set apart.”

Indeed, we read in Lev. 20:26, “You shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and I have set you apart from other peoples to be Mine.”  Yet, being set apart is not always positive.  We read in Acharei Mot how defiling the land causes its inhabitants to be separated, vomited or spewed out, from it.  And breaking laws in Kedoshim leads to being cut off from the people (karet)...The rabbis interpreted karet this to be a divinely imposed punishment, like an early death.   So perhaps the essence of holiness, as stated in 20:26, is not simply “I have set you apart,” but “I have set you apart to be Mine.”  “You are holy” means not only that you have been set apart (distinguished) because you have behaved in a manner conducive to holiness, but with the intent that you will continue to do so in accordance with the concept of Imitatio Dei, imitation of God.

Shabbat shalom,

Canadian Separation Satire

Three men, a Newfoundlander, a Quebecer and an Albertan were walking along a country road one day when they came across an old lamp beside the road.

One of them picked it up and rubbed the lamp and out pops a Genie. The Genie says, “I will grant you three wishes. Since there are 3 of you, each of you will get one wish.”

The Newfoundlander thinks a bit and responds, “I am a fisherman, my father was a fisherman, and my grandfather and great-grandfather before him were fishermen. My son will be a fisherman. I wish for the oceans to be filled with fish.” The Genie grants him his wish. POOF! The oceans are filled with fish.

The Quebecer jumps in and says, “I wish for a big wall all around Quebec.” POOF! The Genie grants the Quebecer his wish and a huge wall is erected all around Quebec.

It is now the Albertans turn. He thinks for some time before responding, “How big is this wall around Quebec?”

“The wall is 150 feet high and fifty feet thick.” replies the Genie. “And nothing can get in or out of the wall.”

“Ok, fill it up with water!” wishes the Albertan.

Yom Kippur Mass Apology Form
 August 22, 2010   Editor’s Note: Wondering how you can atone for your sins on Yom Kippur?  Two comedians have devised alternate form letters that can be sent out right after Rosh Hashanah.
By David Jelenko and Steve Hofstetter

Dear [People on My Facebook Page/Friends],

With [two days off of work/Rosh Hashanah] over, it’s time to look forward to Yom Kippur. And as always, that means [apologizing for stuff that isn’t my fault/penance], because [God says I have to/it’s always good to take stock of where things stand with our loved ones]. So I am writing to set things right with [you jerks who crowd my space/my family and friends]. Since I [can’t be bothered to do this in person/couldn’t reach out to all of you in time], the mass communication method seems like the [best cop-out/most practical way to go].

To that end, please fill out the following form and send it back to me [never/before Kol Nidre], so I [won’t have to deal with this again/can apologize properly].

1) Name: ________________

2) How I know you: ___________

3) How long I’ve known you: _______________

4) What I allegedly did wrong:
A) _______________
B) ________________
C) ________________

5) Are you sure [THING I DID] was really my fault? [YES/NO]
5a) Are you lying? [YES/NO]

6) Was [THING I DID] so bad that if Jews believed in hell, I would go there? [YES/NO] (If “YES,” please describe)

7) Would money/food/other gifts help paper over [THING I DID]? [YES/NO]

8) Are you going to let [THING I DID] go if I apologize? [YES/NO]
Note: If answer to #8 is “NO,” skip question #10.
If applicable: 8a) Will an apology get you to drop any pending lawsuits related to [THING I DID]? [YES/NO]

9) Is [THING I DID] forgivable? [YES/NO]

10) How I can make [THING I DID] up to you: __________________________

11) Will you still forgive [THING I DID] when invariably I don’t perform #10? [YES/NO]

And remember that for whatever I’ve done wrong over the last year, I am truly [without fault/sorry].


Many years ago when I was 23
I got married to a widow who had a grown up daughter for her late husband.

My father fell in love with my wife’s daughter and they got married.
This made my father my son-in-law because he married my wife’s daughter.
And my wife’s daughter became my mother because she was my father’s wife.

My wife and I had a son, my little son then became a brother-in-law to dad because dad married his mother’s daughter.

My son also became my uncle because he is a brother-in-law to dad and a brother to the widow’s grown up daughter which was my step-mother.

My dad and his wife also had a son; my dad’s son became my grandchild because he was my wife’s daughter’s son.

And so my wife became my mother’s mother which made me her grandchild.

Now I am the husband of my grandmother.



Perfect scapegoat

Smith goes to see his supervisor in the front office. “Boss,” he says, “we’re doing some heavy house-cleaning at home tomorrow, and my wife needs me to help with the attic and the garage, moving and hauling stuff.”

“We’re short-handed, Smith” the boss replies. “I can’t give you the day off.”

“Thanks, boss,” says Smith “I knew I could count on you

Deaf, HOH (hard of hearing), and ASL (American Sign Language) Jokes


Two Deaf men are signing to each other.
The first man asks, “What did your wife say when you got home late last night?
The second man replies, “She swore a blue streak”
And the first man asks, “What did you do then?”
And the second man replies, “I turned out the light.”


An elderly gentleman had serious hearing problems for a number of years. He went to the doctor and the doctor was able to have him fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed the gentleman to hear 100%.

The elderly gentleman went back in a month to the doctor and the doctor said, “Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.”

The gentleman replied, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I’ve changed my will three times!”


 Thou Shalt Not Lie 

A Minister was walking down the street when he came upon a group of about a dozen boys, all of them between 10 and 12 years of age.

The group had surrounded a dog. Concerned lest the boys were hurting the dog, he went over and asked “What are you doing with that dog?”

One of the boys replied, “This dog is just an old neighborhood stray. We all want him, but only one of us can take him home. So we’ve decided that whichever one of us can tell the biggest lie will get to keep the dog.”

Of course, the reverend was taken aback. “You boys shouldn’t be having a contest telling lies!” he exclaimed. He then launched into a ten minute sermon against lying, beginning, “Don’t you boys know it’s a sin to lie,” and ending with, “Why, when I was your age, I never told a lie.”

There was dead silence for about a minute. Just as the reverend was beginning to think he’d gotten through to them, the smallest boy gave a deep sigh and said, “All right, give him the dog.”

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