Parshiyot Acharei Mot & K’doshim
This Shabbat we are again studying two parshiyot. The first is entitled Acharei Mot, a phrase that means after the death, and refers to the deaths of Nadab and Abihu after bringing strange fire before Y’H’V’H on the day the Mishkan was dedicated. Acharei Mot covers V’yikra 16.1 through 18.30. The second par’sha is entitled K’doshim, holy ones, and covers V’yikra 19.1 through 20.27. How many of you would describe yourself as a holy person?
V’yikra chapter sixteen introduces the service of Yom Kippur, which is often referred to as the most set-apart of all the feasts - and not without reason. Of the seven annual feasts listed in V’yikra chapter twenty-three, Yom Kippur has requirements that the other feasts do not. For instance:
on Yom Kippur, which is actually Yom Kippurim, plural, in V’yikra 23.27, we are commanded to afflict our beings, our souls נַפְשֹׁתִיכֶם
a person who does not afflict his soul on this day is cut off from his people
Y’H’V’H will destroy any being who does any work on the is day from the midst of his people
this is a Sabbath day in which we are to afflict our souls for the evening of the ninth day until the evening of the tenth day - from evening to evening, a complete twenty-four hour day.
I don’t believe the importance of this day can be overstated. It is the one day out of the year when we are to afflict our souls and cease from doing any work. Failing to do so means that that person is cut off from his people. Since these laws were given to Yisra’el, both native and ger, anyone failing to observe Yom Kippur at its given time cannot be a part of Yisra’el. Additionally, Y’H’V’H Himself will destroy anyone found doing any work on Yom Kippur from the midst of his people.V’yikra 23.26-32
Destroy is from a very strong term. It is translated from ha’a’vad’ti הַאֲבַדְתִּי from אבד, which means to lose a valuable possession or to perish. In fact, it is translated as perish in V’yikra 26.38 and destroy in B’midbar 24.19. From this we understand that Y’H’V’H loses a valuable possession from among His people when some fails to observe Yom Kippur when and how we are commanded to do so.
Another important aspect of Yom Kippur is that Y’H’V’H has declared this day of observance to be a Sabbath rest for you, and you shall afflict your beings - a law forever חֻקַּת עוֹלָם. This means that this law was not annulled by the death and resurrection of our Mashiach and continues to be applicable for all of Y’H’V’H’s people - and so do the penalties for a failing to keep these laws.
There are three words, or phrases, in these two parshiyot that are the focus of the remainder of this week’s midrash. Keep in mind that midrash is from the word drash דרשׁ, which means to seek or inquire throughly. In D’varim 13.14 it is translated as to investigate or search out. In this week’s midrash we are going to seek out and investigate the meaning of these three words, or phrases, which are:
Set-apart is from qodesh קֹדֶשׁ and is often translated as holy. The shoresh means to prepare for a task and to dedicate all resources. Torah defines the task we are to prepare for as well as teaching us how to complete that task. Three times in this week’s par’sha alone Y’H’V’H commands us, Be set-apart (holy), for I, Y’H’V’H your Elohim, am set-apart.19.2;20.7;20.26 This command is repeated in B’midbar 11.44 and 11.45. In B’midbar 15.40 we are told that we are to wear tzitziyot on the corners of our garments so that you remember, and shall do all My commands, and be set-apart unto your Elohim.
As you can see, in order for a person to be set-apart (holy) he - or she - must remember and do all of Y’H’V’H’s commandments. V’yikra chapter eleven contains the majority of the dietary laws we are commanded to follow. After giving the list of clean and unclean animals, Y’H’V’H commands, For I am Y’H’V’H your Elohim, and you shall set yourselves apart. And you shall be set-apart, for I am set-apart.11.44 What we eat or refuse to eat plays a role in whether or not we are set-apart (holy) to our Elohim.
Those who choose to eat animals that Y’H’V’H has declared to be unclean are not set-apart to Y’H’V’H. In verse forty-seven we are charged by Y’H’V’H to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the living creature that is eaten and the living creature that is not eaten.
This week’s par’sha continues to list commandments we are to guard and do if we are to be set-apart (holy) to Elohim.
17.10: And any man of the house of Yisra’el, or of the strangers (gerim) who sojourn among you, who eats blood, I (Y’H’V’H) shall set My face against that being who eats blood, and shall cut him off from among his people. He is no longer set-apart to Y’H’V’H.
17.13-14a: And any man from the children of Yisra’el, or from the strangers (gerim) who sojourn among you, who hunts and catches any beast or bird, which is eaten, shall pour out its blood and cover it with dust, for it is the life of all flesh. Once again, failing to do so results in that person being cut off from Yisra’el.
18.2-5: In this passage Y’H’V’H speaks to B’nei Yisra’el. He commands Yisra’el not to do according to the laws of Mitsrayim, where they had come from, or according to the laws of the Kena’anites, where they were going. He tells Yisra’el, Do My right-rulings and guard My laws, to walk in them. I am Y’H’V’H. And you shall guard My laws and My right-rulings, which a man does and lives by them. I am Y’H’V’H.
We are not to live by the same laws we lived by before He redeemed us and we are not to learn the laws of men after we are redeemed. We are to live according to His laws and right-rulings if we are to be set-apart to Him.
Most of the rest of chapter eighteen contains laws prohibiting sexual immorality. These laws include:
incest vs. 1-16
relations with a woman and her daughter - vs. 17
marrying a woman as a rival to her sister - vs. 18
adultery - vs 20
homosexuality - vs. 22
These and the other prohibitions of this chapter defiles the land and brings punishment from Y’H’V’H. Once again Y’H’V’H commands, But you, (Yisra’el) you shall guard My laws and My right-rulings, and not do ANY of these abominations, the native nor the ger who sojourns among you.vs.26 In verse twenty nine Y’H’V’H declares, For whoever does any of these abominations, those beings who do them shall be cut off from among their people. They will no longer be set-apart to Y’H’V’H Elohim.
Reading passages such as these reminds me of the Messiah’s closing words in the revelation Elohim gave to Him to give to Yochanan. And there shall by no means enter into it (the New Yerushalayim) whatever is unclean, neither anyone doing abomination and falsehood21.27…but outside are the dogs and those who enchant with drugs, and those who whore, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and all who love and do falsehood.22.15
Other commandments from these two parshiyot that set us apart to Elohim include:
Do not steal, do not lie, do not deceive one another - 19.11
Do not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the children of your people. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am Y’H’V’H. - 19.18
Do not let your livestock mate with another kind. The Hebrew text actually states that we are not to breed two kinds of cattle, or domesticated animals, together.
Do not sow your field with mixed, or two kinds, of seed. D’varim 22.9 states that we are not to sow our vineyards with different kinds of seed, lest the yield of the seed which you have sown and the fruit of your vineyard be defiled.
And do not put a garment woven of two sorts of thread upon you. D’varim 22.11 specifies wool and linen. - 19.19 The sense of this passage is that mixing things that are similar but different defiles the seed and the fruit.
Do not practice divination or magic. -19.26
Do not round the corner of your head nor destroy the corner of your beard. - 19.27
Do not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead. Dead in this passage is translated from nefesh ,נפש nor put tattoo marks on you. 19.28 – Tattoo is from ketovet כְּתֹבֶת, from the shoresh כתב that means to record, write or a written document.
Once again another commandments to, Guard My Sabbaths and reverence My set-apart place. I am Y’H’V’H. - 19.30
Rise up before the grey-headed. And you shall favor the face of an old man, and shall fear your Elohim. - 19.32
And when a ger sojourns with you in your land, do not oppress him. Let the ger who dwells among you be to you as a native among you, and you shall love him as yourself. For you were gerim in the land of Mitsrayim. I am Y’H’V’H your Elohim. 19.33-34
That brings us to the other two words in this week’s parshiyot we must understand. The first is native, from the ezrach אֶזְרַח. The shoresh is זרח and refers to a native-born person deriving rights from the land. This word is used in Sh’mot 12.48 that states, And when a ger sojourns with you and shall perform the Pesach to Y’H’V’H, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and perform it, and he shall be as a native אֶזְרַח of the land.
What many fail to understand is that even the native-born, the ezrach, grafts into Yisra’el. After the Exodus, Y’H’V’H brought the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchaq and Ya’akov to Mount Sinai and there offered them His covenant. He told them IF they diligently obeyed His Voice and guarded His covenant, THEN they would become His treasured possession above all the peoples and then they would be to Him a reign of kohanim and a set-apart nation.Sh’mot 19.4-5 It was only after they heard the terms of the covenant and declared, All that Y’H’V’H has spoken we shall do, and obey, that Mosheh took the blood of the sacrifice and sprinkled it on the people, sealing them in covenant with Y’H’V’H.Sh’mot 24.7-8 And that day, the people included the ezrach and the gerim, the native born and the strangers sojourning among them.
So who are the gerim? Scripture tells us that:
the ger can keep the Pesach once he and all his males are circumcised. Sh’mot 12.48
the same laws that apply to the native born also apply to the gerim. Sh’mot 12.49
the native born are forbidden to oppress the ger. Sh’mot 23.9
the ger is to rest on the Sabbath. Sh’mot 23.12
Any man of the House of Yisra’el or of the gerim who sojourn among you, who does not bring his ascending offerings or slaughterings to the Door of the Tent of Meeting shall be cut off from among his people. V’yikra 17.8-9 A ger was/is required to bring the same offerings and sacrifices as a native born and if he doesn’t, he is cut of from his people. A ger was a part of Yisra’el, subject to the same laws and punishments.
the native born are to leave the corners of their fields and the gleanings of their vineyards for the poor and the ger. V’yikra 19.9-10
In most cases the ger has given up everything to join himself to the people of Y’H’V’H, to Yisra’el: family, inheritance, work, careers - everything from their previous life and have nothing. It is the responsibility of the native born to take care of them.
During the feast of Shavu’ot Elohim commands, And you shall rejoice before Y’H’V’H your Elohim, you and your son and your daughter, and your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your gates, and the ger and the fatherless and the widow who are in your midst, at the place where Y’H’V’H your Elohim chooses to make His Name dwell. The same applies to the Festival of Sukkot - D’varim 16.11-14 The gerim are required to keep the pilgrimage feasts.
In Y’hoshua chapter eight we learned that the gerim were divided and stood with the twelve tribes on Mount Gerizim andMount Eybal as the blessings and curses for obedience or disobedience were read. Yehoshua 8.33-35
In Yechezqel 47 we learned that when the land is divided in the Olam HaBa the gerim shall be counted as native-born and receive an inheritance in the Land in the midst of the tribes of Yisra’el. 47.21-23
In Ma’asei chapter fifteen, when Ya’akov saw all the gentiles wanting to graft into Yisra’el he believed he was witnessing the fulfillment the prophecy in Amos 9.11-12, when Y’H’V’H declared He would rebuild the fallen tents of Da’vid - though many would argue - and I would agree - that the gentiles in this case were predominately people of the Northern Tribes. Ma’asei 15.15-18
So who, or what, is a ger? The shoresh of גֵר is גור which means to live fearfully or, as in B’reshith 12.10, to sojourn temporarily. A ger is simply a person not native born of Avraham, Yitz’chaq and Ya’akov who voluntarily joins himself or herself to the people of Yisra’el and learns to guard and do all of the same commandments as a native born. He is subject to the same offerings and sacrifices, including that of Mashiach, as well as the same punishments.
Also, by definition, the position of a ger among the native born is a temporary state, not a permanent one. Once a ger fully grafts into Yisra’el, which includes learning and guarding all of the commandments, being circumcised and keeping the feasts, he is no longer called or considered a ger - he is as the native of the land. He is an Yisraelite and a full member of the commonwealth of Yisrael and his position cannot be denied by those who are native born.
Which brings us back to the question I started this midrash with. How many of you would describe yourself as holy men or women, set-apart to Y’H’V’H? Do you:
keep all of the feasts?
afflict your soul on Yom Kippur?
guard the Sabbaths of Y’H’V’H?
make a distinction between the clean and the unclean and eat only what Y’H’V’H has declared to be clean among the living animals?
refrain from eating blood?
do you diligently abide by and teach the laws of sexual morality?
bear a grudge against any of the children of your people?
allow your animals to mix with other kinds or plant your fields with mix seed?
consciously avoid wearing a garment made of linen and wool woven together?
rise up before the grey-haired one or honor the face of an old man?
You do if you are set-apart - if you are holy. But if a persons refuse to do these things as well as all the other commandments, how could he or she possibly call themselves set-apart?
And one last thing about being holy, set-apart. In V’yikra 20.7: And you shall set yourself apart, and shall be set-apart, for I am Y’H’V’H your Elohim. Being set-apart - being holy - is not something someone else does for you, not even Mashiach or Y’H’V’H Elohim: it is something you must do yourself. You shall set yourself apart. If you don’t, you will find yourself cut off from your people whether native born or ger. Being set apart from the world means being a part of His people Yisrael, but it is a choice each must make. Before you leave this Shabbat, make sure you know what nation you are a part of.
14 Iyar 5775
2 May 2015