Sign In Forgot Password

Parashat Achrei Mot

April 29, 2022
29 Nisan 5782
Parashat Achrei Mot
14th Day of the Omer

Dear Friends,

Achrei Mot means “after death” -- an appropriate name in a week when we observe Yom Hashoah. The portion's name refers to the deaths of the sons of Aaron, who offered strange fire and were consumed. Although the deaths referred to here are not the deaths of millions, it is strong reminder that each of those who died in the Shoah is so much more than a number. Each one has a story and each one is unique. When we add to that those who survived, we begin to get a sense of the enormity of it all.

Strange fire. It gives one pause. Here we are with the need to go forward even when confronted with which is inexplicable. It seems the perfect metaphor as we contemplate the Holocaust, more than 8 decades after the rise of Nazism, particularly in today’s world.

In this Torah portion, we are given a recipe for how to go forward in the wake of the deaths of Nadav and Abihu. Aaron is silent, and Moses and the people grieve. Many of the details may not resonate with us. However, the description of the Yom Kippur ritual surrounding the two kids, one sacrificed and the other sent out into the wilderness, continues to be read every Yom Kippur. The goat sent into the wilderness bears with it the sense of our need to send evil out of our midst. That is certainly one interpretation.

As we observe Yom Hashoah this week in a number of settings, what remains is a belief that we need to tell the story in ways large and small. I will admit to wondering what the children we teach take away from the stories of the Shoah.

This week, we listened to a teenager interview his grandmother who hid for two years in the Belgian countryside from 1942 to 1944. She was separated from her parents from age 8 to 10. It was a Holocaust tale of survival, kindness, and generosity of spirit. Yet the remaining trauma experienced by this aged grandmother could not be minimized as she told her grandson of her fears of being alone and worrying that she would be abandoned.

For our children, the end note of the conversation was directed right at them as the younger generation, with the grandmother offering words of gratitude to them for listening to her story and caring enough to listen.

Someone asked this week: what do we take away when we tell or hear the stories of that time, and how does it impact us now? I believe that we tell the stories, listen to the stories, and allow them to resonate in our own lives. And possibly, just possibly, those stories give us the courage to go forward in the face of adversity in the names of those we never knew.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi LInda Shriner-Cahn

Sun, December 4 2022 10 Kislev 5783