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Parashat Achrei Mot-Kedoshim

April 23, 2021
11 Iyyar 5781
Parashat Achrei Mot-Kedoshim
26th day of the Omer
Leviticus 16:1 - 20:27

Dear Friends,

In this week’s double Torah portion of Achrei Mot-Kedoshim, it is Kedoshim that calls my attention. Once more, it is a different lens that provides a new understanding for this much studied Torah portion. At first glance, what we have before us appears to be a hodgepodge of rules and regulations for almost absolutely every category imaginable. The rules specify the way we treat day laborers, instruct us to honor our parents and care for the poor, prohibit us from harvesting the corners of our fields, remind us not to put a stumbling block before the blind, regulate the food we eat and the way we worship, the fabric of the clothes we wear, instruct us to keep Shabbat, to judge people without deference to their background be they rich or poor, to not hold grudges, to not practice divination, to be honest with your weights and measures, to show deference to the old, to treat the stranger as citizens and love him as yourself for you were strangers in the land of Egypt... and on and on.

The list is all over the map. There is no order or coherence -- no clear categories. The list begins with “you shall be holy for I, Adonai your God, am holy." So all of these items somehow relate to being holy. They range from the truly mundane to that which is most difficult, depending who you are.

Are we being asked to find the holy in everything around us, especially our ordinary daily lives? Our lives are anything but ordered -- particularly at this moment -- and yet we are reminded that holiness can be found in the simplest of acts and in the most difficult. that holding in our feelings to those closest to us when we are dismayed or angered by their behavior may not be a good idea and that sharing them may be the best strategy. The implication is that sharing our reactions in an appropriate manner may be the best solution. We are asked to care for the land and for one another, to love your neighbor’s welfare as if it were your own.

In the chaotic truth that is each of our lives, there is the capacity to create holiness in the way we go about our daily interactions. This set of instructions is not a to do list -- it is a “to be” list. If we look closely at this long list, we are being told to see one another and the world in which we live as holy; when we follow the rules, they have the capacity to change our behavior.

We each face the challenge to craft the story of our lives with the recognition of the holiness that li within and that we are charged to embrace. When we accept that challenge, our lives are enhanced simply by living a conscious life, aware of the possibility that each one of us is capable of adding to that which is good and holy in the world. The world could use a little more holiness in the world just about now. May we be up to the challenge. 

Shabbat Shalom,
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Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Thu, May 6 2021 24 Iyyar 5781