Iyar 8 5780

True Morality Comes from above, Not from Us!

Acharei Mot (After the death) speaks about the tragic death of Aaron’s two sons. This is followed by the rules for the rituals at Yom Kippur so that no one else would meet with the same fate as these two young men. The two portions deal with rules and regulations in the areas of morality and rituals. We place more emphasis today on rituals and forget the moral aspect to apply to our lives. In Kedoshim (holy) we see that the Creator says,

“You shall be holy; for I the LORD your God am holy.
אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם; קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ: כִּי קָדוֹשׁ

Sadly, we have theologized many words in the Scriptures such as korban – קָרְבָּן, kaporet – כַּפֹּרֶת, kadosh – קָדוֹשׁ, forcing a singular meaning upon them and removing the flow and understanding of the narrative. Yom Kippurim יוֹם כִּפֻּרִים has been translated as “Day of Atonement or Expiation” which changes the idea that it is the Creator who covers and protects us. This protection doesn’t mean that we can get away with anything, but that He is in charge of all things and that He has provided ways for us to get closer to Him. The words, tahor and tamei, which have been translated as clean and unclean in these portions in Vayikra, are better understood as “presentable and unpresentable”, to be able to approach the Creator. There are protocols to be followed just as there are when we attend a wedding.

After the destruction of the Temple, our sages needed to clarify how to be in a right relationship with the Creator. The division of chapters and verses in the Bible is totally man-made approximately 400 years ago. The portions were set up by topics to facilitate the memorization of the Scriptures. These rules and regulations were set down to get the people to change their focus from the pagan gods of Egypt to the Creator. We may not realize how affected we are by our environment; we become open-minded and less and less shocked by the immoral behavior of those around us. Today, what used to be right is now wrong, and what used to be wrong is now considered right. When we speak up, we are considered a fanatic. Biblical values have not changed yet we have lost our moral compass, which causes confusion to younger generations.

In Genesis 15:12-16, Abram makes a prophecy concerning Israel. The Creator tells us that the Israelites would be enslaved in Egypt for 400 years “until the iniquity of the Amorites had reached its full extent”. They would be removed, and Israel would replace them in the land. In Leviticus 18:26-30, the Creator says, I am the LORD your God and was warning Israel that He would remove us from the land as He did with the Amorites due to their behavior. At the end of Kedoshim, Leviticus 20:22-26 repeats that we needed to obey His Chukkim and Mishpatim so that the land would not vomit us out as those living in the land before we took it over. In all three instances, including the Haftarah portion, Ezekiel 20:17, He is speaking to Israel: “I refrain from destroying them. I did not make an end of them in the desert”; because He had given His word to our forefathers. This is as true today as it was then.

I recommend that you read these two parashot about being presentable to the Creator; that we “be holy as He is holy”. The word holy has lost its true meaning because as I said, we have forced a theological understanding into it. Holy is being “set apart” to the Creator. He tells us clearly what it means to be “part of Him.” Leviticus 19 begins with the two middle of the Ten Commandments, both are Chukkim – חוּקִּים – honor father and mother and keep the Shabbat. They represent the hinge between the first three and the last five. The first three are Mitzvot – מִצְות and concern our relationship with the Creator; His identity as the God who brought us out from Egypt, to not worship idols and to not take His name in vain. The last five, Mishpatim – מִשְׁפָּטִים concern the relationship that we are to have with our neighbour, our fellowman, Lev. 19:18… “love your neighbour as yourself, I am the LORD. וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ: אֲנִי, יְהוָה.” “Do to others as you would have them do to you” as Yeshua said. If you want to be holy, you need to follow His Ten Commandments; that is what sets us apart from the rest. Everything else is the application of these Ten. His moral injunctions are far more important than the rituals which is why humanity is failing today. The Ten Commandments may seem simple to you, but they are not easy to fulfill. Every decision we make on a daily basis should be viewed through their lens.

Today we have made God be in our own image, thus making ourselves into gods. Humanism removes the Creator from our lives. Our own rules have redefined morality, but here the Creator is clearly telling us to follow Him and not men, otherwise, we will suffer the consequences. We may be able to fool others, but we cannot fool the Creator. Religious rituals are like spiritual cosmetics that teach us how to “appear” holy to others but mean little to the Creator who sees our hearts, our intentions. Does the Creator care whether or not we wear leather on Yom Kippur? He is asking us to afflict our souls which means to humble ourselves before Him, instead, we concern ourselves with what we do to look good to others.

True morality comes from above not from us because we can be too easily influenced by others. We have accepted the lies of the world today instead of the Truth which can only come from the Creator, as Yeshua said; “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” The word truth in Hebrew is a euphemism referring to the Creator Himself without having to pronounce His name. Yeshua was speaking to our people at a time of great oppression when the traditions of man had replaced the Torah of God. He wanted us to know that when we have an intimate relationship with the Bore Olam, we are freed from superstition and the oppressive regulations of men for power and control. The message of the Creator is not about doctrines; it is about action. The love of God is a word of action. When we love someone, we want to do things for them; it is about loyalty, not some ethereal gushy feeling which quickly leaves.

The Creator set Israel apart and warned the people against imitating the ways of the world, as we read in Leviticus. However, Israel today has forgotten who they are and rather than follow the Creator, they prefer to be accepted by the world. As His chosen remnant, let us not follow in their footsteps. Holiness lies in what we are inside, so let us not be like Nadab and Abihu who chose to do things their own way and suffered the consequences; rather let us daily examine our hearts, make things right to those we have hurt or offended and return to the Creator, do teshuva. That is how to have a true relationship with the Bore Olam.