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Achrei Mot-Kedoshim

May 1, 2020
7 Iyar 5780

Rosh Chodesh Iyar
22nd day of the Omer

Parashat Achrei Mot-Kedoshim
Leviticus 16:1 - 20:27

Dear Friends,

We are at the end of another week of living in a historical moment (as described in one of our Tehillah Talks) -- a time we will look back upon through a historical lens. All the light begins to come in; there is an end ever so slowly coming into view, but we are not there yet and we have no idea what the world will be like. How it will change? How will it not? Will we be kinder, gentler, more caring? Will we have a deeper understanding of the many ways in which each of us is connected to so many other people, people we will never meet but to whom we need to say thank you. Will we see our connection to the natural world differently and have a sense that the natural world does not take well to being mechanized and needs to be treated with respect?

My prayer is that we will come through transformed or reconstructed, having had the opportunity to live our lives in an unexpected way for a period of time -- able to view the world through a wider lens.

Over the last number of weeks, the Torah and our tradition has afforded me a guide through this wilderness of the unknown in which we find ourselves. I am looking to both the Torah portion and the characterization of the 22nd day of the Omer. This week’s Torah portion is a double portion, Achrei Mot and Kedoshim. We are still in Leviticus, but this week we are told of the many ways in which we can be holy instead of focus on the offerings to the Divine. The underpinning of much of the specific instructions give us guidance as to how to live our lives with a deep awareness that we are not alone in this world and that there are others to consider and care about.

The list ranges from those closest to us, our parents, to those we may never meet, those reaping the corners of our fields. Throughout we are reminded over and over again to be Holy. As I contemplate notions of what it means to attempt to be holy, at first glance it is all about the non-everyday, the exceptional, and yet that really is not the case. Working toward being a loving, holy person created in the image of the Divine is a daily struggle. It is work. This Torah portion underlines that reality. It takes work to remember that we were once strangers and to love the stranger as ourselves. The miracle of the moment in which we are living is that we are surrounded by people who exemplify that notion of holiness and caring through their work, and we are reminded that these are not empty bromides; rather, it takes effort and thoughtfulness.

This is also the Torah portion where we are told: "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am Adonai.” Everything always begins with us as individuals.

As we count the Omer, today is Chesed she'beNetzach, simply translated as "love within endurance." This phrase is very appropriate for the moment. But let us take it with the expanded definition of "love within perpetuity." May we have the endurance to make that kind of love a reality.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Sat, September 19 2020 1 Tishrei 5781