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Acharei Kedoshim

Monday, 30 April, 2018 - 12:11 pm

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This week’s Torah portion opens with a detailed description of how one might enter, and make an offering at “the holy,” (tabernacle, altar) and enumerates many steps to ensure ritual purity and procedures for sacrifice. After we are told exactly how to sacrifice an ox or goat, God starts talking to Moses saying, “You shall observe My statutes and My ordinances, which a man shall do and live by them. I am the Lord” after which comes a laundry list of things that need to be done so that we may be in accordance with God’s plan.

As things age and time goes on, parts of this list have become obsolete or redundant, including not sleeping with your brother’s wife, or letting your wives who are also sisters, see each other naked. Which is okay. In today’s society those rules aren’t much of an issue anyway. But there are parts of this list that still ring true, especially when interpreted in a more metaphorical sense--you should not lie carnally with your neighbor’s wife--is a pretty good directive to not sleep with your friends’ significant others.

But to me, the most striking directives that we encounter in the Torah this week are those that ask us really hard things and can even be interpreted in a nearly literal sense:

You shall commit no injustice in judgement

You shall not stand by the shedding of your fellow’s blood

You shall not hate your brother in your heart

You shall love your neighbor as yourself

What beautiful commandments. I wish I woke up every day to someone reminding me to withhold judgement and to love my neighbor as myself. Because sometimes it’s really difficult to remember.

Some mornings when I’m walking to class and haven’t had my coffee yet, and someone is taking up the whole sidewalk, on their phone, moving at a glacial pace, I want to pick them up and move them out of the way. What really just blows my mind is when I’m at the gym and someone sits down on a machine I was in the middle of using and all I can do is stand there thinking, “you’ve just ruined my whole day…”

And these people, that most of the time we don’t even know, that we feel are agents of evil, there to completely ruin our day, have no idea (or they just don’t care.)

Love your neighbor.

What if we were so perfect, such elevated beings that when someone cut you in line or screwed up your Starbucks order, you smiled and wished them the best? How cool would it be if you could move through life, unaffected by the unintentional inconveniences others caused you?

God knows what’s up. He knows Becky took your cold brew and now you’re stuck with her venti caramel mocha. And I don’t think he’s upset that you’re upset. Because when he told us to love our neighbors, like many other rules of his, I think he made it the ultimate goal. And as we work toward that goal, we fill the earth with a relaxed compassion for others that makes their inadvertent transgressions so much more bearable, and in doing so we become closer to God. As often as we can remember his words “love your neighbor,” we can do our best to actually love our neighbor. Our slow sidewalk friend. Our gym partner with terrible timing on which machine to pick. We can tap our foot less and we can love all of these people. And maybe, hopefully, they can love us too.

My theory is, that if we practice, this abundant, free flowing, love that alleviates our burdens, makes daily injustices a little bit less tedious, and connects us to those around us, we can all make this planet a little bit less aggravating, and more comfortable for everyone on it.

So, as we look at this last week of class, dead in the eye, let’s remember everyone is going through something, and if we can do nothing else for them, let’s at least show our neighbor some love. Shabbat shalom.

To learn more about this past weeks Torah Portions you can click  here and here

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