Parashat Achrei Mot-Kedoshim / פרשת אַחֲרֵי מוֹת־קְדשִׁים
Read on 24 April 2021 (12 Iyyar 5781).
Parashat Achrei Mot-Kedoshim is the 29th and 30th weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading.
Torah Portion: Leviticus 16:1-20:27
Acherei Mot-Kedoshim is another double portion, combined in non-leap years (every two or three years, the extra month of Adar II is added to reset the holidays to their proper, appropriate seasons.
Acherei, the first of the two portions, starts off talking about the rituals for Yom Kippur, a Shabbat Shabbaton, a Sabbath of Sabbaths, observed on the tenth day of the seventh month (now Tishrei). Aaron, the High Priest, is to first sacrifice a bull for his own sin offering, and then a he-goat will be offered to repent for the congregation of Israel. He is to take two goats. By lot, one will be the offering. The other will be cast into the wilderness, symbolic of Israel casting off its sins. Note that this section is read during the Yom Kippur morning Torah service.
The Children of Israel are also commanded not to do any sacrifices away from the Tent of Meeting (later confined to the Temple), and they are to completely drain the blood of any animal used as an offering. They are then to cover the blood as well, and thus not mimic the pagan practices rampant in that area at that time.
The last part of the sedrah discusses forbidden relationships. This is a list of relatives that people can not have intimate relations. Note that this portion is read during the afternoon Torah service of Yom Kippur.
Parashat Kedoshim contains a lot of different commandments that facilitate Israel’s holiness. The phrase “I am Hashem, Your God” appears many times after the dissemination of particular commandments. The first commandments exhort Israel to honor their mothers and fathers (in that order) and then honor Shabbat.
It then addresses the timely manner in which sacrifices are offered and then eaten, leaving items harvested that fall to the ground for the poor, and dealing honestly with others in business, like having accurate weights and measures.
We are told to love our fellow as ourselves and not stand aside if someone is in trouble and we can help without putting our own life in danger. We are not to mate different species of animals nor mingle different fibers (cotton and wool).
We are not to imitate the pagan rituals of indigent tribes, like “pass our children through fire for Molech”. Similarly, we do not put any faith in sorcery, witchcraft or superstition. We only put our faith in Hashem.
Finally, punishments are enumerated for anyone who engages in the forbidden relationships discussed in chapter 18 of the previous parashat.