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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Parshat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim: The Essence of Holiness

This week we read the double portion/parashah of Aharei Mot-Kedoshim (Vayikra/Leviticus 16:1-20). These two portions contain numerous mitzvot/ commandments, some of which make sense to us today, some which don't, and some which are totally antithetical to what we view as righteousness and justice. This includes the "holiness code" in chapter 19 which includes the commandment "you shall be holy, for I, the Eternal your God, am holy" as well as "you shall love your fellow human being as yourself."  This section is viewed by our tradition as the center of the Torah.  Indeed, it is actually located almost at the center of the scroll itself.                                              

Though some of the prohibitions in the parashah are problematic, at best, and abhorrent, at their worst, I am going to focus specifically on the holiness code of chapter 19 and ignore the problematic verses in chapter 18 and elsewhere.   The essence of this code is not simply holiness, but life itself. We are to be holy for God is holy.  We are to live holy lives because we are created in the Divine image.  We are to remember that we are all interconnected. All is One.

The name of the double parashah itself  is telling, if interpreted a little creatively.  Aharei Mot means "after the death" and refers to after the death of Aaron's sons, the priests Nadav and Avihu, who were killed by God for offering "strange fire" (see commentaries on Parshat Shemini).  Kedoshim means "holy ones".  And so the name of the parashah could be translated as "after death, holy ones."  After the horror of the death of Nadav and Avihu, the message given is not "behave, or else God will get you!"   Rather, the message is, be holy ones.  Even in the face of death, destruction, loss and tragedy, we must always remember to be holy, for we are indeed holy.  And our task is to bring holiness, love, and unity into the world.  

With those words as my kavvanah/intention, I offer this poem to you based on the Holiness Code of Leviticus 19.

Shabbat Shalom,



God spoke
to all then now forever
be holy be whole
be at one with me
as I am with you

be filled with awe at creation
for we are all creators
humandivine partnership
together we create each other
each day life anew

do not worship the many    or the individual
as if it were the One
lest they tear you away from the
truth the reality  the divine

offer gifts of wholeness and peace
to me      to you     to all
give freely to others what you have brought
do not attach yourself to what is yours
for it is not
hold on fast and it will consume you
turning holy into profane
shattering the unity
into broken pieces of illusion

the earth and all it contains is ours
share what you have been given
leave for others        give to others
all that is       belongs to      them us
to everyone     to no one 
for it is mine
as you are mine 
and I am yours 
for we are wholly
                                                                                                                                             do not steal  with your words
do not obliterate   with your speech
the holiness within and around you
instead     search your heart
discover love   uncover compassion
let loose mercy   upon all creation
without limits

pay attention  to those who do not follow the one
show them the way
help them to find the one      to open their eyes
that they may see me   in themselves     in you
in everything

do not hide your love
do not hate      those still unable
unwilling       to see
whose eyes and hearts  remain closed
whose fear prevents them
from being holy
from being whole
from being at one

love all others as yourself
love yourself as all others
for in truth other and self are delusions
all are One     all is love
completely    utterly    holy
that is all we need to know

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