Acharei Mot (Lev. 16:1 – 18:30)

First, a few notes from the calendar.  Then we get back to Leviticus.

The 8th day of Passover, which was on Shabbat this year, is not observed in Israel nor by Reform Jews.  In Israel, they simply went ahead last week with the weekly Torah reading, Acharei Mot and so are a week ahead of those of us in the diaspora, who read Acharei Mot this week. Reform Jews coped by splitting Acharei Mot into 2 parts, for last week and this week.  Eventually, we’ll all be in sync again. Until then, I invite my readers in Israel (yes, I do have some) to check out the archived Torah Portion Humor posts at

Further, this part of the Jewish calendar induces mood swings, + and -.  Passover, 15 to 21 or 22 Nisan, marks the Exodus from Egypt, a joyful occasion (+).  Then comes Yom Hashoah on 27 Nisan (May 1-2), Holocaust Remembrance Day (-), close to the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (+ and -), which started 15 Nisan (April 19, 1943).  This brings forth many emotions: sorrow, anger, depression, determination… Then there’s Rosh Chodesh Iyar this Sunday and Monday (so there’s a special haftarah Saturday about David and Jonathan, I Samuel 20:18 – 42), and starting a new month is a bit of an upper (+).  But a few days later, on 4 Iyar, is Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers of Israel and victims of terrorism (-).  Definitely somber.  However, 5 Iyar, is Israel Independence Day (+) which was on May 14 in 1948, definitely a happy day in our calendar. 

Okay, back to Leviticus.

“Acharei Mot” means “after the death of,” here, Aaron’s two oldest sons, Nadav and Avihu, who were struck dead when they improperly offered incense a few portions back.  Logically, Aaron next receives detailed instructions
regarding entering the Holy of Holies, so as to prevent a fatal mishap. Next is a section we read on Yom Kippur, a description of Aaron’s Yom Kippur service, how he is to make expiation for himself, his household, and the Israelites. Then he purifies the Holy of Holies, the altar and the Tent of Meeting.  There are also two goats. One designated, by lot, for the Lord and is sacrificed as a sin offering.  The other is designated for Azazel:  

“Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities and transgressions of the Israelites, whatever their sins, putting them on the head of the goat; and it shall be sent off to the wilderness through a designated man. Thus the goat shall carry on it all their iniquities to an inaccessible region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness.” (16:21-22)

The rest of the portion concerns how the people are to be ritually holy, e.g., by offering sacrifices properly, by not eating blood, and by not eating animals that were torn or died naturally. The equivalence of blood with life will become the basic rationale for kosher butchering and removal of blood.   The people must also abstain from a long list of sexual couplings (mainly incest), “for it is by such that the nations that I am casting out before you defiled themselves.” (18:24) If the Israelites behave similarly, they too will be cast out. 

Next week: Kedoshim, or How to Behave

Shabbat shalom,


tph mood swing chains (3)


I was looking at what I’ve written about Acharei Mot over the years and came across this about scapegoating from 2006.  Yes, I confess, I watched “The Apprentice” for its first five seasons.

“On ‘The Apprentice,’ a team in trouble invariably anoints a scapegoat, usually a genuine oddball, that they want to drive into the wilderness (aka the board room) to be sacrificed (aka fired).  This strategy sometimes works pretty well in eliminating the designated Azazel.  However, from my observations of the last 4 1/2 seasons, the candidates who actually make it to the final two or four are the ones who behaved more according to the commandments in Kedoshim.  They played fair.  They didn’t cheat or lie or indulge in backstabbing.  They stood up for people.  They did not hold grudges.  In short, they behaved ethically and treated each other with respect.  It’s amazing that otherwise bright, accomplished contestants haven’t figured that out yet.” 

The contrast between then and now is astounding. Then again, some things don’t change:

Last night on TV Moses and the Ten Commandments was on ABC competing with Donald Trump and “The Apprentice” on NBC. So a man who talked to God versus a man who thinks he’s God.  – Jay Leno


Humor for Yom Kippur (selected)
with thanks to George Relles

In anticipation of Yom Kippur, first we have a few thoughts on sinning and atonement:

“A sense of humor keen enough to show a man his own absurdities will keep him from the commission of all sins, or nearly all, save those worth committing.”
– Samuel Butler
* * * * *
“Sin is sweet in the beginning, but bitter in the end.”
– The Talmud
* * * * *
Sign on a synagogue just before Yom Kippur: “Your sins are not so many that you should stay out…
Or so few that you shouldn’t come in.”
* * * * *
“It ain’t no sin if you crack a few laws now and then, just so long as you don’t break any.”
– Mae West

———————- [dead link]

Man buys ice cream to atone for theft 35 years ago – 01-22-2007, 06:08 PM :

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) — A former La Crosse man ate some stolen ice cream 35 years ago — and the guilt’s been eating at him ever since.

So the Green Bay-area businessman decided to atone for his sin by returning to the scene of the crime – his former middle school – and treating students to an ice cream party.

The donor prefers to remain anonymous. But staff members at Lincoln Middle School in La Crosse appreciate his efforts.

Vice principal Jacque Durnford jokes that the man’s statute of limitations is up.

The man and a friend stole the ice cream from the school cafeteria when he was a student there.

Teacher Richard Stewart and the 40 or so students in his seventh-grade medical partnership class were the beneficiaries of the man’s donation.

Student Emily Paige Johnsrud says the lesson for her was clear – quote – “If you do something bad, you should try to give back.”


Top Ten Kohain Gadol Pet Peeves
ADMIN — JULY 23, 2006

10.Still no temple parking spot reserved for Kohain Gadol (High Priest)
9.Two Words: “Ephod Rash”
8.No cell phone reception in desert Tabernacle
7.Constantly getting confused for KKK Grand Dragon
6.Had to take blood bath in Initial Public “Offering”
5.Small bells on garment ruin daily “Hide N’ Go Seek” Altar Game
4. Urim V’tumimwon’t pick lotto numbers
3.Wearing enough purple to be in a Prince Video
2.Mikvah prune hands
1.Ain’t no “Dress Down Fridays” in the Kodosh Kedoshim (Holy of Holies)









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