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Amid Israel’s war in Gaza, there is talk of drafting yeshivah students into the army to bolster its ranks. On Shavuot, we celebrate the anniversary of receiving the Torah, so I want to write about the role of Torah in war. The Torah is not just a dusty old book …

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Home » Acharei Mot

Acharei: Food for Thought for Your Dinner Table

Submitted by on April 13, 2008 – 5:52 amNo Comment | 2,579 views

Sunday: Repentance

The Holy of Holies was closed to human traffic throughout the year, even on Shabbat and holidays, Yom Kippur was the only exception. Yom Kippur is unique because it is a day of repentance. Our sages taught that the penitent’s deep remorse and yearning for G-d catapult him to a level beyond that of the righteous. On Yom Kippur all Jews reach the pure and raw yearning of the penitent. The Kohen Gadol, who represented the nation, was thus permitted to enter the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies on this day. Sefat Emet

Monday: Bond of Incense

The daily morning offering atoned for the sins of the previous evening and the daily evening offering atoned for the sins of the previous day. It was fitting that the incense offering, which represented the loving bond between G-d and the Jews, was offered every day after the daily sacrifice because bonding with G-d is only possible after our sins have been forgiven.

However, on Yom Kippur, the incense was offered in the Holy of Holies before the blood from the animal offering was sprinkled on the Holy Ark. This indicates that G-d’s forgiveness on Yom Kippur resulted, not from our remorse, but from His love. Every Jew ascends on this holy day to the highest levels of connection with G-d and it is from this vantage point that G-d forgives our sins. On this day forgiveness is offered as a result of our bond, rather than to enable it. Shem Mishmuel

Tuesday: Partial Acknowledgements

Rabbi Akiva taught that G-d forgives the Jewish people just like a Mikvah (ritual bath) confers purity upon those who immerse in it. What is the connection between a Mikvah and forgiveness? The Mikvah holds a unique property in that, when necessary, it offers partial purity. There are ritual impurities that last for seven days and impurities that can be reversed, through immersion, on the same day. One who contracts two forms of impurity, one that will last for seven days and another that can be reversed on the same day, may immerse in the Mikvah to be released from the lighter impurity even as he remains impure from the more severe form of impurity.

Similarly, we can secure G-d’s forgiveness for a lesser sin even if we are guilty of greater sins that we have yet to acknowledge and repent for. G-d does not wait till we acknowledge every one of our sins. He treats every sin separately and forgives us for each sin as we seek forgiveness for it. Likutei Sichos

Wednesday: A Homily

Our ancestors were only forbidden to eat sacrificial meat while they were in the desert and lived in close proximity to the tabernacle. Once they entered Israel and spread throughout the land, the consumption of ordinary, non sacrificial meat, was permitted to them.

The Midrash offers a homily. A prince developed an affinity for swine, which was not fitting for a member of the royal family. The king ordered his son to dine with him every day and since the king would not permit swine on his table the prince soon lost his affinity for it. Similarly, our ancestors developed pagan habits in Egypt by which they offered portions of their meat to idols. G-d restricted their meat consumption to the vicinity of the Tabernacle for forty years. By the time they entered Israel they had long forgotten their early Pagan practices. Mirdrash Rabbah

Thursday: Obedience Enhances Understanding

“Carry out my laws and safeguard my decrees.”  Laws are logical statutes, such as the prohibition against theft, which we might have legislated for ourselves if G-d had not commanded them. Decrees are statutes that defy human comprehension, such as the Red Heifer, which we might never have conceived had they not been ordained from above. Why are two such radically different forms of law incorporated into the same verse?

In truth, we comprehend only a minute fragment of the vast wisdom contained in the logical laws. Our minds are finite, Divine wisdom is infinite, and it is ludicrous to suppose that we are able to grasp the full extent of Divine wisdom inherent in any one of His laws. However, obedience to the Divine statutes that transcend our comprehension expands the links between our souls and brains and enhances our intuitive understanding of the logical laws. We thus translate the verse, (you will be able to) “carry out my laws” (in a manner that you understand because you will) “Safeguard my decrees.” Kedushas Levi

Friday: Practical Application

The Parshah began with lofty ideals about High Priests entering the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, but ends with exhortations against sexual promiscuity. The beginning does not seem to match the end.

Holiness and connection with G-d cannot be divorced from material living. One is not permitted to say, I am so enamoured by G-dliness that I cannot conceive of returning to the mundane and prosaic existence of everyday life. The closer one is drawn to G-d, the more robust must be one’s commitment to living by G-d’s instructions. As the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies, he did not leave the mundane behind. He focused his heart on those Jews outside of the Holy of Holies, who were beset by the trying challenges of the human experience and intent on overcoming them. Likutei Sichos

Shabbat: Becoming Accustomed

The Torah exhorts us against repeating the sins of those who lived in Israel before we arrived. “For the inhabitants of the land that are before you committed all these abominations and the land became contaminated. Let not the land disgorge you… as it disgorged the nation that is before you.”

The human body rejects unhealthy foods. However, when we consume such foods repeatedly, our bodies become conditioned and no longer reject it. The Torah warns us that the land of Israel does not operate, in this sense, like the human body. Despite their repeated transgressions, the land never became conditioned to the sins of the nations, who inhabited the land before the Jews, and they were disgorged. In the same sense, the land would never tolerate or become accustomed to Jewish sins for a Holy Land demands Holy behavior from its inhabitants. Meshech Chochmo