Parshat ha Shavuah Verses – Achrei Mot-Kedoshim – אחרי מות־קדשים

So, this is it. Two parashiot that are read this Shabbat in Diaspora mark the end of the year since my father’s passing. I don’t have the words to talk about this, so I am going to talk about the words in the text that resonate with me, and with this event – a turning point of sorts for everyone in my family.

 

א  וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, אַחֲרֵי מוֹת, שְׁנֵי בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן–בְּקָרְבָתָם לִפְנֵי-יְהוָה, וַיָּמֻתוּ.

1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the LORD, and died;

“After the Death”… How does one live after the death of his/her loved one? How does one breathe, see, smell? Everything is different. I remember the summer days of 1996, my first subway ride in Moscow after my sister’s murder. All I could think of “Why is this sun shining? Why are these people laughing? How is the earth moving like nothing else had happened? אחרי מות

Why is this earth still moving?

Round and round it goes

Bringing us to the other side

And back again

What happens after it’s all gone – אחרי מות?

 

Interestingly, the two titles literally mean “After the death. Holy”. Does that mean that we need to realise that a sacrifice brings us closer to holiness granted we learn our lesson? It’s hard to be holy harbouring pain inside.

 

amYom Kippur – this parshah talks about it a lot. What does a kohen to do? What kind of fear must have Aaron and later kohanim have had coming close to the sanctuary? The laws are multiple, strange sounding and frightening. But, what do we know about them, really? Not those of us that learn all their lives digging deeper into the well of Torah wisdom, but regular people? Every time I re-read a piece of text I am both emotionally elevated for achieving new knowledge and frightened for the enormity of things I don’t know. Do I have to? The answer for me is – yes, I do.

 

י  וְאִישׁ אִישׁ מִבֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, וּמִן-הַגֵּר הַגָּר בְּתוֹכָם, אֲשֶׁר יֹאכַל, כָּל-דָּם–וְנָתַתִּי פָנַי, בַּנֶּפֶשׁ הָאֹכֶלֶת אֶת-הַדָּם, וְהִכְרַתִּי אֹתָהּ, מִקֶּרֶב עַמָּהּ.

10 And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among them, that eateth any manner of blood, I will set My face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people.

יא  כִּי נֶפֶשׁ הַבָּשָׂר, בַּדָּם הִוא, וַאֲנִי נְתַתִּיו לָכֶם עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, לְכַפֵּר עַל-נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם:  כִּי-הַדָּם הוּא, בַּנֶּפֶשׁ יְכַפֵּר.

11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life.

יב  עַל-כֵּן אָמַרְתִּי לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, כָּל-נֶפֶשׁ מִכֶּם לֹא-תֹאכַל דָּם; וְהַגֵּר הַגָּר בְּתוֹכְכֶם, לֹא-יֹאכַל דָּם.

12 Therefore I said unto the children of Israel: No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood.

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Ironic, I know

Do not eat blood, Gd said

Yet I heard it many times – you! Bloodsucker!

 

The story of my life – I was once delivering a paper “on Judaism” to the audience of my fellow students of the English language, all intelligent people, I thought. The class was really on “scientific atheism”; we were required to take it. Thankfully for me, the teacher, like me, was not too atheistic. In any case, after my speech, a friend of mine, who has been eating in my house multiple times, Armenian young lady said, “But you hadn’t said anything about the blood you eat on your Passover”……………………….

 

Maybe, that is the reason that these words are repeated multiple times in these parashot :

אֲנִי, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם  I am the LORD your God

If there is a Gd, there is no need to listen to the haters and ignoramuses, and no way to think you can get away with a crime.

אֲנִי, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם  I am the LORD your God

לז  וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת-כָּל-חֻקֹּתַי וְאֶת-כָּל-מִשְׁפָּטַי, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם:  אֲנִי, יְהוָה.

37 And ye shall observe all My statutes, and all Mine ordinances, and do them: I am the LORD.

As we see, if we do not live by the “statutes and ordinances”, the world starts to turn in the wrong direction. Not only for us, but the whole humanity. A lofty weight to carry.

 

 

Just to reiterate the message, our Haftarah portion says:

Ezekiel 20 יְחֶזְקֵאל

יט  אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, בְּחֻקּוֹתַי לֵכוּ; וְאֶת-מִשְׁפָּטַי שִׁמְרוּ, וַעֲשׂוּ אוֹתָם. 19 I am the LORD your God; walk in My statutes, and keep Mine ordinances, and do them;
כ  וְאֶת-שַׁבְּתוֹתַי, קַדֵּשׁוּ; וְהָיוּ לְאוֹת, בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵיכֶם–לָדַעַת, כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם. 20 and hallow My sabbaths, and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that ye may know that I am the LORD your God.
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