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Summary of Parshat
Acharei Mot & Kedoshim

by the editors    
of Torah from Dixie    

The commandments described in Parshat Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16:1-18:30) chronologically follow the tragic deaths of Aaron's two oldest sons, which we read about in Parshat Shemini two weeks ago. This week's first portion begins with a lengthy description of the special Yom Kippur service to be performed in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) by the Kohen Gadol (High Priest). The service included the Kohen Gadol's confession on behalf of himself and the entire nation; the lottery selection from among two identical goats, one of which would become a national sin offering and the other would be pushed off a cliff in the desert as the bearer of the people's sins; and the complex incense and blood-sprinkling ceremonies to be performed in the Kodesh HaKedoshim (Holy of Holies). Following the command that Yom Kippur and its laws of fasting and refraining from work will be observed eternally by the Jewish people as a day of atonement, the Torah prohibits the offering of korbanot (offerings) outside the Mishkan or Temple complex. Blood may not be eaten, and during the shechitah (ritual slaughtering) process of certain animals, a portion of the blood must be covered. The Torah portion concludes with a listing of the immoral and forbidden sexual relationships, and the command that the Jewish people maintain and ensure the holiness of the land of Israel.

Parshat Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27) begins with Hashem's command to the entire nation of Israel to be holy, emulating the supreme sanctity of Hashem Himself. The Torah goes on to delineate a multitude of mitzvot through which we can achieve sanctity, covering a wide variety of subjects, both positive commandments and prohibitions, dealing both with our unique relationships to Hashem and to those around us. We are commanded to fear our parents, to guard Shabbat from being desecrated, and to refrain from the worship of idols. Hashem instructs us to leave various gifts from our harvest for the poor and downtrodden, including the edge of the field and the sheaves which were unintentionally dropped while being gathered. We must maintain justice, have honest dealings with our neighbors, refrain from tale-bearing, and generally care for others as we do ourselves. Following a description of several categories of kilayim (forbidden mixtures) crossbreeding animals and plants, and the wearing of shatnez (a mixture of wool and linen in one garment) the Torah discusses orlah, the prohibition to consume fruits from the first three years of a newly-planted tree. The portion continues with a listing of the punishments to be meted out against people who transgress and participate in the various forbidden relationships discussed in this week's first portion. Parshat Kedoshim concludes with the commandment, once again, that we be a holy and distinct people from amongst the nations of the world.


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