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Torah Sparks

PARASHAT AHAREY MOT-KEDOSHIM
May 1, 2004 - 10 Iyar 5764

Annual: Leviticus 16:1 - 20:27 (Etz Hayim, p. 679; Hertz p. 480)
Triennial Cycle: Leviticus 19:15 - 20:27 (Etz Hayim p. 696; Hertz p. 500)
Haftarah: Amos 9:7 - 15 (Etz Hayim, p. 705; Hertz p. 509)

Prepared by Rabbi Jodie Futornick
McHenry County Jewish Congregation, Crystal Lake, IL

Department of Congregational Services
Rabbi Martin J. Pasternak, Director

Summary

Additional laws for conduct of the kohanim, followed by the "Holiness Code," which deals with interpersonal ethical obligations.

Triennial I: (Leviticus 16:1 - 17:7)

Laws for the ancient observance of Yom HaKippurim, the Day of Atonement, on which the kohayn seeks expiation for the sins of all Israelites. Included is the ritual of the scapegoat, upon whose head the sins of the children of Israel are symbolically placed. Laws and practices for the current-day observance of Yom Kippur, including fasting. The prohibition of slaughtering animals anywhere other than on the mizbeah (altar).

Triennial II: (Leviticus 17:8 - 19:14)

Review of the prohibitions against eating blood or animals that have either died a natural death (nevelah) or been torn to pieces (trayfah). Laws against prohibited sexual practices of local pagans. The beginning of the "Holiness Code (Leviticus Chapter 19)," including the mitzvah to behave in a holy manner representing the image of God, since "I, the Lord, am Holy."

Triennial III (Lev. 19:15 - 20:27)

Remainder of the Holiness Code, including the commandments to rebuke someone who is doing wrong and to "Love Your Neighbor as Yourself." The very end of parshat Kedoshim, Leviticus 20, includes miscellaneous prohibitions and a final reminder of the centrality of holiness.

Topic 1: Ridding Ourselves of the Poison of Resentments

You shall not hate your kinsman in your heart. Reprove your neighbor, but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:17-18)

  1. Rashi, quoting a midrash, explains the difference between vengeance and a grudge: One says, "Lend me your ax," and the other says, No!" The next day, the second one says, "Lend me your ax," and the first one says, "You wouldn't lend to me, so I'm not going to lend to you." That is vengeance. However, when the first person says, "Although you wouldn't lend to me yesterday, I am not like you, so here it is," that is bearing a grudge." (Rashi on the Torah)
  2. In recovery from alcoholism, the futility of harboring resentments is recognized. When you harbor resentments, you are the one who suffers rather than the person you resent. It is an act of futility; a second aspect of the futility of harboring resentments is the awareness that this is unlikely to bring about any desired result. The recovering alcoholic becomes keenly aware of how limited his control over events is, and that in the final analysis, it is God and not he who will determine the outcome of events. Recognition of these two points can help a person overcome harboring resentments, and this is conveyed by the two verses cited above. "Do not despise someone in your heart." How foolish to let someone you dislike dwell within your heart! Furthermore, do not seek revenge, for I am God. Do not waste your efforts in futile behavior. You are not God, and you cannot control the outcome of your behavior. Therefore, do that which is right, because it is only your actions over which you have control, and not their consequences. (From Rabbi Abraham Twerski, M.D., Living Each Week, Art Scroll Press, 1992, page 255)

Questions for Discussion:

  1. I have often heard it said that bearing resentment is like "taking poison and waiting for the other guy to die," What guidance does the Torah and Rabbi Twerski offer us to overcome resentments that can threaten to seriously undermine our spiritual existence. Can you think of examples of times you might use similar spiritual principles to detoxify a potentially devastating situation? Identify examples of revenge and grudge that you have witnessed/experienced. How do the Torah's comments influence these highly personal/emotional circumstances.

Topic 2: Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18)

  1. Do not say, "Just as I have been humiliated, let my neighbor be humiliated too; just as I have been cursed at, let my neighbor be cursed at too. Said Rabbi ben Azzai, "If you act thus, know whom you are humiliating - God made him in the likeness of God. [Genesis 5:1] (Genesis Rabbah 24:7)
  2. Loving your neighbor as yourself means visiting the sick, comforting mourners, joining a funeral procession, celebrating the marriage ceremony with bride and groom, offering hospitality, caring for the dead or delivering a eulogy. All the things that you would want others to do for you - do for your brothers and sisters. (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Evel 14:1)
  3. Even if a person wishes another well in everything, in wealth, honor, learning and wisdom, he will want to be superior to him in some ways. This is why the Torah condemns this form of selfishness, We are commanded to "love your neighbor as yourself" so that we will "learn to wish others success in all things, just as we wish well or ourselves, and to do so without reservations." (Nachmanides, Commentary on the Torah)
  4. A person should not just wish for his neighbor what he wants for himself, namely advantage and protection from harm. He should endeavor to do everything that is to the advantage of his neighbor, whether in terms of bodily health or success in business… and it goes without saying that he should not be responsible for doing anything to his neighbor that hewould not wish to be done to him… (Malbim, 18th century commentator)
  5. Out of the endless chaos of the world, one nighest [sic] thing, his neighbor, is placed before his soul and concerning this one, he is told, 'He is like you!' 'Like you' and thus not "you." You remain You and are to remain just that. But he is not to remain a He for you and, thus, a mere It for your You. Rather, he is like You, like your You, a You like You and I - a soul. (Franz Rosenzweig, The Star of Redemption, translated by W. W. Hallo, New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970, p. 240)
  6. The Torah's command to "Love your neighbor as yourself" continues to provoke significant questions about the meaning of love. Despite the various opinions and definitions, however, it is clear that Jewish tradition challenges us to love ourselves by striving for self-understanding, respect and a sense of our powers for giving and to transform our love of self into a generous love for others. (Harvey Fields, A Torah Commentary for our Time, Volume 2 p. 137)

Questions for Discussion:

  1. There is an enormous amount of commentary on the meaning of these words, "Love your neighbor as yourself." The rabbis were clearly intrigued when a Torah commandment mandated an emotion rather than an action, and they went to great lengths to explain how to translate a feeling such as love into practical, concrete actions. Which of the above rabbis do you most agree or disagree with? How do you find yourself putting love of God and other people into action in your own life? Can love be commanded? For that matter can a human turn love on and off at will? Is that a positive or a negative?

 
 
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