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Parashat Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16:1-18:30)

“You shall keep My laws and My rules, by the pursuit of which
man shall live: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 18:5)

Parashat Acharei Mot’s opening verse states: “The Lord spoke to Moses achariei mot, after the death of Aaron’s two sons…” (Lev. 16:1) Those two words make it impossible not to think of Lori Gilbert-Kaye, o”h, who was murdered last Shabbat while attending services at the Chabad synagogue in Poway, CA.

Nechama Leibowitz (1905-1997; a scholar who revolutionized the teaching of the weekly Torah portion worldwide) teaches: view the world through “parashat hashavua glasses,” meaning we should apply the lessons of the weekly Torah portion as filters to guide our actions. So what does Acharei Mot offer in the aftermath of last week’s tragedy?

God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites, “You shall not copy the practices of the land of Egypt where you dwelt, or of the land of Canaan to which I am taking you, nor shall you follow their laws” (Lev. 18:3). Even though Egypt is the apex of culture in the ancient world, the Israelites should leave Egyptian culture behind. And even though Canaan is the Promised Land, the Israelites should not adopt Canaanite culture. Instead, “My rules alone shall you observe, and faithfully follow my laws: I the Lord am your God“ (Lev. 18:4). God commands the Israelites to be counter-cultural!

In a world of hate, embrace love. In a world of violence, embrace peace. In a world of selfishness, embrace altruism. In a world of harshness, embrace compassion. In a world of walls, embrace doorways. In a world of fracture, embrace wholeness and unity. In a world with way too much death, embrace life.

May Lori Gilbert-Kaye’s memory be for a blessing.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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