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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Parshat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim: How to Find Holiness After Loss and Destruction

Dear Online Hevra/community,
I apologize for posting this so late. I wrote it for this past Shabbat as a response to the recent violence in Baltimore and elsewhere.  I had meant to clean it up a little and post it right after Shabbat, but somehow it took a little longer.  

I hope you find this meaningful in the face of recent events.

This week we read in synagogue a double portion/parashah from the Torah called Acharei Mot/Kedoshim.  Acharei Mot means “after death”. It consists of ethical and ritual laws concerning, sacrifice, Yom Kippur rituals, dietary restrictions and sexual prohibitions. These laws, which were part of creating a new society built on laws and justice, were given “after the death” of Aaron's sons Nadav and Avihu, hence the name of the parashah.

The second parashah  is Kedoshim, which means holiness.  It includes the Holiness Code of Leviticus/Vayikra Chapter 19. In this code we are given a series of commandments and laws. given to the people because we are all to be holy, because God is holy, and we are created in God's image. And so the essence of the text is the creation of a society based on holiness. To give birth to a nation not only dedicated to God, but who imitate God. The Torah, here and throughout it's chapters, commands us to be a people and a nation that cares for one another regardless of social status and especially protecting the most vulnerable: the orphan, the widow and the stranger in our midst. At the heart of all the Holiness Code, and indeed the entire Torah, we find the central commandment of the Torah, v'ahavta l'reyakha kamokha, “you shall love your fellow human being as yourself.”

As I watched the violence on the streets of Baltimore this past weeks, I couldn't help but think of that central commandment, and how difficult it can be to fulfill at times. I asked myself numerous questions, such as, how do we love our fellow human beings as ourselves? And how do we do this especially when we might feel that others aren't doing the same? The essence of the answer to these questions is that we must not view anyone as self or other. We must love all of God's creation, all of humanity, because we are all one. We are all part of God. That is the essence of holiness.

Acharei mot kedoshim. Perhaps we should read the two names as a sentence? After death, there is holiness. Keeping this in my heart, I wrote following poem.
After death.....holiness
After death holiness
after sacrifice renewal
after mourning rebirth
after destruction rebuilding
after fear trust
after judgment compassion
after hatred love

I look around and see only death sacrifice mourning destruction fear judgment hate
I see despair anger frustration I don't see anything else

I hear accusations of others of society of our world we accuse
youth without respect caring only about destruction violence
when it is really about feeling they are unseen feeling only frustration fear
those meant to protect us seen as wanting instead to destroy
when they really want peace harmony safety calm life
our leaders trying to divide in order to help their own agenda
when they are simply acknowledging the divisions already there seeking a way
to bring order reconciliation to see both the parts and the whole the holy

yes there are also
youth who want only to wreak havoc
too many police prone to violence instead of peace
leaders seeking only to divide in order to benefit from the support of others
with narrow minds
people of all types who seek only to foment hatred and fear

the forces of death destruction hatred will always be there on all sides among all
they are strong able to persuade others that they are right that there is no choice
other than violence hatred oppression control their own narrow minded agendas
hoping that we will be unable to see the truth beneath it all

that holiness is also always there beckoning us to walk down that path
the path of humility goodness love acceptance peace mercy kindness
the path of the Divine the true path of humanity
a path acknowledging differences reminding us we are not all the same
but we are all connected we are all One

so many think they know the right way they know what God wants
but their god cares only for them and not for others that is not truly God
that is the other the ego evil leading us down the path to destruction

around me I smell the smoke see the flames hear the chants the screams the proclamations the suffering and pain
but within me within all of us we can see the truth
we can sense the harmony see the source of compassion hear the voice of mercy
the cry for justice and the proclamation that we are all one part of the divine
we must all love each as ourselves for there is no other there is no self
there is only the one

at times I feel helpless hopeless this struggle is eternal we cannot bring it to an end
other times I feel strong hopeful that the struggle will end
for all will come to know that which is truly eternal
love compassion mercy connection God
the divinity within us all regardless of who we think we are

we have seen so many senseless deaths
we have seen needless destruction devastation frustration
but may we work together to instead create life compassion rebirth
holiness mercy love
let us work together to create a world where differences are embraced
while unity is acknowledged
where all human souls are valued equally
for we realize that God belongs to no one person no one belief no one people
for we are within God god is within us all
remembering this we can continue on the path to create holiness
which is our birthright and our purpose in life
the essence of us being human

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