Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Achrei Mot-Kedoshim - 5773

My friends,

This Shabbat we read a double portion - Achrei Mot and Kedoshim.

Achrei Mot begins with instructions for the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, on the unique and special service and ritual on Yom Kippur when he is able to enter the Holy of Holies to seek atonement for himself, his family and the entire community. The second portion is one of the richest and most important readings from the Torah. Rashi explains that this parasha is equivalent to the Ten Commandments, because all ten commandments can be found in this parasha.

This portion is called Kedoshim because that is the theme that runs through the entire parasha. We are commanded, "Kedoshim Tihyu Kee Kadosh Anee Hashem Eloheichem" - "You shall be holy because I, the L-rd your G-d, am holy." It goes on to list many Mitzvot that define holiness. At the end of many of these Mitzvot the Torah emphasizes, "Kee Kadosh Anee" - "Because I am holy."

It's interesting to note that the order of the Ten Commandments listed in Kedoshim is different that the order of the Ten Commandments that we find at the Revelation at Sinai. In this portion of Kedoshim, the first Mitzvah is, "You shall each revere your mother and your father, and keep the Sabbath. The Torah goes on to list many other mitzvot that help us become Kedoshim - holy: not to steal, not to deal deceitfully or falsely, not to curse one who is deaf, not to place a stumbling block before the blind, not to slander, not to show favoritism in judgment, not to take vengeance, not to bear a grudge, and the most famous verse: "Ve-ahavta Lere-acha Kamocha" - "Love your fellow as yourself."

Since the Torah in this portion lists all the ways to live a life of kindness and love to others, the first of the ten commandments in this portion is to revere our mother and father. A child's first encounter with other human beings is with his/her mother and father. Showing great respect and appreciation to parents may lead a person to a positive attitude toward all human beings, as summarized by the Mitzvah "Love your fellow as yourself." Rabbi Akiva commented on this Mitzvah - that this is the most important principle in the Torah.

The horrific bombing this past week at the Boston Marathon showed us the evil that can happen when there is a lack of respect for all human beings. Rather than love, these terrorists are full of hate and have no respect for life. How tragic, that so many who had come to an event which celebrates life, and the quality of life, their ability to continue to enjoy life to its fullest has been cut down by a hater of life.

This event has also shown us the tremendous love that others have shown in running to help others, even at their own risk. That is a clear and strong example of "Ve-ahavta Lere-acha Kamocha" - "Love your fellow as yourself." The Kedoshim (holy individuals) are the first responders and all those brave and kind individuals of all kinds who came forward to help. They put into practice "Love your fellow as yourself."

Our hopes and prayers are for the families and individuals who lost loved ones and who have suffered pain and injury. We also pray for the victims of the West, Texas accident. These are all our people - human beings we are commanded to love. "Ve-ahavata Lere-acha Kamocha" - "Love your fellow as yourself."

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram