5/03/2012

Shabbat Acharei Mot & Kedoshim


Begins May 4th at 7:35 PM. 
Ends May 5th at 8:35 PM.

Most of this week’s reading is concerned with ethical behavior . On the one hand the Torah gives us all the negative commandments; not harm other people, either by attacking them physically, insulting them, gossiping about them, refusing to help them, taking advantage of their weakness or helplessness, taking revenge, bearing grudges or  in business, dishonesty or simply not keeping ones word when one has committed oneself. These are all such basic moral rules, people often tell me “I’m not religious rabbi, but I do believe in being a good person.” Yet when I get to know them better I discover that most of them ignore the rules of the Torah that concern being good to others. It’s a competitive world out there and most of us are too busy accumulating, fighting for profit, to care.

Then there are the more difficult positive commands; to respect the elderly, to love ones neighbor, to support and help the weak and poor, without thought of reward or benefit.

Most people think the law that says “Love your Neighbor as yourself” says just that. Everyone agrees with it, in theory. Everyone thinks it’s a lovely idea but hardly anyone really keeps to it. In fact the command says “Love your neighbor as yourself I am God.” We shouldn’t do it because it’s a good social idea, if we want others to be nice to us then we have to be nice to them. We should do it because it is a religious obligation even when we don’t feel like it, even if people are not nice back.

The full text in the Torah ends “I am God” because we should know that someone somewhere is looking. God knows and God ultimately pays back.  If another human being were to see us behave selfishly we would be ashamed. But in truth we ought to be ashamed before God. We know how often we fail. Our egos are so strong they can blind us to the reality of who we really are.

And that is why religion with all its little rules jogs us back to reality. Every time during the day we make a blessing it reminds us that there is a greater Power and that Power wants us to be nice, helpful and honest with each other.