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Parashat Achrei Mot - 5776

Dear friends,

This week's Parasha, Aharei Mot, describes the major role that the High Priest played in the service on Yom Kippur, when he was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies to ask atonement for his family, his tribe and the Children of Israel. Now that the Children of Israel will be entering the Land of Canaan, and will be exposed to the Canaanites' ways and lifestyle, they are warned to not imitate their ways - particularly as to incest and human sacrifices.

A well-known verse is found in this parasha:

"You shall keep My laws and My rules, by the pursuit of which shall man live: I am the L-rd." (Leviticus 18:5)

Notice that the promise is for any human being - not just for the Children of Israel. These laws are for 'Ha-Adam' - all humans.

We learn from "V'Hai Bahem" - "and live by them" - that saving a life takes precedence over all prohibitions, except for murder, incest and idolatry. The term "V'Hai Bahem" appears several times in the Torah. Is this a guarantee that one will live if he/she keeps the Mitzvot? The Midrash explains "will live by them" as meaning in the world to come. Others explain that "live by them" is not a promise, but that a person shall conduct and live his/her life according to the rules and laws of the Torah.

As a people we have been around for close to 3000 years. Keeping the Torah, to a certain extent, has kept us alive from generation to generation. We have not always seen the reward of 'Hayim' - life. This week we observed Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. We can definitely question the promise of 'life' when so many of our people were killed because they are Jews.

Next Shabbat, we will be observing Yom HaAtzma'ut, Israel Independence Day. That has to be the most significant sign of 'Hai' - life. Jewish renaissance, testifying to the real 'Hayim' - that Israel still lives.

"Am Yisrael Hai" - The people of Israel is Alive.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram