Sunday, April 29, 2012

Acharei-Mot and Kedoshim:Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

This week's Torah portion is a double-header. We're reading Acharei-Mot and Kedoshim. They begin by  describing the laws relating the sending out of the scapegoat on Yom Kippur.  It continues with the laws of "forbidden relationships", and then on to a passage in Kedoshim describing what it means to be Holy.

In Acharei-Mot and Kedoshim, we are commanded by God to be a Holy People: "You shall be holy" (Leviticus 19:12) and we are given a list of rules explaining how to do so, which includes, leaving food for the poor, treating those with disabilities with respect, loving the stranger as yourself and having honest business transactions. The Torah also lists sexual prohibitions leading to one of the most disturbing passages in the Torah: "You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; it is abhorrent" (Leviticus 18:22).

I find it so strange that in one moment the Torah, stressing Holiness and talking about loving thy neighbor as thyself, reiterating the importance of treating others as equals to ensure that no one is discriminated against, and then immediately commands a harsh punishment for someone who has performed something that is considered to be "abhorrent".

The purpose of Acharei-Mot and Kedoshim is to give us rules to live by, and to teach us an ethical lifestyle that is built upon treating others with equality and respect. But, here, the Torah is teaching us that something is unacceptable. The portion certainly seems to sum up the best of us, and the worst of us.

"Love your neighbor as yourself"...something we should all strive for. Jews have always been strong advocates of social justice and thankfully we continue to be leaders in the cause of righteousness and justice for all people. 

Acharei-Mot and Kedoshim reminds me what we need to strive & compassion for others, whether they're straight or gay, Jewish or Christian or Muslim, White, Black or any race, Male or Female, Young or Old, Rich or Poor. That is what Holiness is all about.

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