Parshat Acharei Mos 5774: Torah’s Standard of Elevating the Jew Above the Nations and Above Animals

Parshat Acharei Mos 5774: Torah’s Standard of Elevating the Jew Above the Nations and Above Animals

by Moshe Burt

Parshiyot Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are normally what baseball fans refer to as another of the “doubleheader” parshiyot. But this is one of those years of both Adar א (Alef) and Adar ב (Bet), so the parshiyot each have their own Shabbos and leyning.

Just as Parshiyot Tazria and Metzora are extensions of each other, visa vi Tumah and Ta’Hara regarding post-birth, regarding skin, hair, clothing or regarding one’s home or building; Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are extensions of each other regarding Kohanim, Yom Kippur, the Kohen’s Yom Kippur avodah in the Kodosh Kedoshim and the Kohanic model of Darchim, which ideally the entire B’nai Yisrael would embrace and exhibit as a paradigm, as model, as a light for all mankind.

Near the end of our parsha, Torah devotes two entire perakim (Sefer Vayikra, chapters 17 and 18) to both discussing and distinguishing the kosher slaughter of consecrated (holy) animals for offerings and unconsecrated kosher slaughter of animals for food while disallowing ingestion of unslaughtered dead or mutilated animals, as well as reminding Am Yisrael that “a high level of moral conduct was expected” of them in order to remain Hashem’s “most favored” people. (Sefer “L’lmod U’lamed”, by Rabbi Mordechai Katz, page 114).

Near the end of our parsha, Torah lists numerous forbidden, illicit relationships and practices in Sefer Vayikra Perek 18. Sefer “L’lmod U’lamed”, by Rabbi Mordechai Katz (page 114) further states on this perek:

…Adultery and illicit marriages were outlawed. Other nations were destroyed because their members had exhibited immoral behavior, and the same fate would befall Bnei Yisrael if they acted likewise.

Along with listing various immoral, forbidden forms of familial and communal relationships and avodah zora (idolatry), Torah teaches (Sefer Vayikra, chapter 18, posukim 22-23):

“You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman, it is an abomination. Do not lie with any animal to be contaminated with it; a woman shall not stand before an animal for mating, it is a perversion.”

Rashi comments on the word “abomination” in the Artscroll Stone Chumash, Sefer Vayikra, chapter 18, posuk 22:

An abomination. None of the relationships given above [in Sefer Vayikra, chapter 18, posukim 6-20] are described with this term of disgust, because they involve normal activity, though with prohibited mates. Homosexuality [and bestiality], however is unnatural and therefore abominable.

The Artscroll Stone Chumash adds on posuk 22:

The chapter of immorality ends with two forms of sexual perversion: homosexuality and bestiality. The harshness with which Torah describes them testifies to the repugnance in which Hashem holds those who engage in these unnatural practices.

So the question could be asked: Why does the perek specifying immoral, illicit and abominable relationships (perek 18) immediately follow the perek which distinguishes consecrated animals (animals designated as offerings) from unconsecrated animals and the ingestion of kosher slaughtered animals from unkosher dead animals and animals slain by other means?

The answer could lie in the saying which is suggested in various places in Torah and by commentators: “You are what you eat.” R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z’l in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Rabbi Daniel Haberman) notes at the beginning of perek 18 in our parsha (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 18, page 563):

The(ir) purpose is to train man not to allow his essential nature to absorb animal nature; not to imitate the animal’s life of instincts and turn it into a human ideal. The most powerful of these instincts is sexual life. The moral control over this instinct is the cornerstone of all personal and national flowering. The purpose of the laws contained in the present chapter (perek 18) is to regulate sexual life according to Hashem’s command…

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos! Chag Kosher V’Same’ach!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.