Shabbat Acharei Mot & Kedoshim

Candles Friday 1st May 7:32pm
Havdalah 2nd May 8:15 pm

LAG (the 33rd) Day of the Omer is on Thursday,
when the period of national mourning ends.

The whole of the Book of Leviticus, Vayikrah, is called the Book of Holiness. So far it has been concerned with Sacrifices, Priests, Ritual Purity and Impurity through disease. All things that have not been applicable for two thousand years and even then did not apply outside of the Land of Israel. So what is their relevance, their message for us today?

These ideas, common to all early societies divided space into areas of ordinary activity and areas of holy activity. They divided humans into states in which they could come into Holy places and states in which they could not come into holy places. This was all the equivalent to what we would nowadays call State and Religious Ceremonial. The King inhabited his palace, his throne room, his space. Priests could enter their sanctuary spaces. Ordinary people could either watch from outside or if they wanted to come closer they had to be in a special state. Just as nowadays we might exclude people with communicable diseases or with arms or if they posed a threat.

But holiness did not just refer to public spaces and places. It applied every day in the way people behaved towards each other. If one wanted to be included in a community one had to behave in a particular way. Otherwise one was excluded.

That is why this week we read about what we would call ethical issues, the ways people were expected to behave. It starts with matters of sexual standards, immorality, incest and abuse and then goes on to deal with how to treat other human beings fairly and with consideration.

Being a good person is not just a matter of abiding by the law, by ones outward behavior. Just as important is how one behaves morally towards others, when ones actions must be “holy,” good and ethical too.