> Weekly Torah Portion > Shabbat Shalom > Shabbat Shalom Weekly

Acharei Mot 5771

Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16-18 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! Have you seen the new one-minute movie "Google Exodus - What if Moses had Facebook?" Check it out on!

Now is the time to buy your wine and matzos! The Seders are Monday night, April 18th and Tuesday night, April 19th.


There are five mitzvot (commandments) for the Passover Seder, two from the Torah and three from our Sages. The two mitzvot from the Torah are to eat matza ("In the evening you shall eat unleavened bread" - Exodus 12:18) and to tell the story of our exodus from Egypt ("And you shall relate to your son [the story of the Exodus] on this day" - Exodus 13:9). The rabbis added the mitzvot of drinking the four cups of wine, eating marror (bitter herbs) and reciting Hallel (Psalms of praise for the Almighty). During the times of the Temple in Jerusalem, there were 16 additional mitzvot associated with the Pesach offering.

All of these commandments are to help us re-experience the Exodus and to feel and strengthen our sense of freedom. The mitzvot are to experience either the affliction or the redemption.

The matza is called "lechem ani" - the bread of the poor man and "lechem oni" - the bread of affliction. In a play on pronunciation, the Sages also called it the bread over which many things are answered. It has the dual symbolism of representing our affliction and our redemption.

The four cups of wine represent the four different terms for our redemption in the Torah (Exodus 6:6-7). Wine is the drink of free men! Bitter herbs is affliction (just look at the faces of those eating horseradish!) And Hallel is our thanks to the Almighty for our redemption and freedom.

Passover is the "Holiday of Freedom" - spiritual freedom. The Almighty brought us out of Egypt to serve Him and to be free. Isn't this a contradiction? What is the essence of freedom?

Is freedom the ability to do what one desires unhampered and without consequence? That is license, not freedom. James Bond had a "license to kill," not the freedom to kill. Freedom means having the ability to use your free will to grow and to develop.

Our leaving Egypt led us to Mt. Sinai and the acceptance upon ourselves the yoke of Torah. This is the centerpiece of our freedom. It sets the boundaries of right and wrong, it sets forth the means to perfect ourselves and the world we live in, it defines ultimate meaning and satisfaction in life. Only with boundaries does one have the ability to grow and develop. Otherwise, with unlimited license, life is out of control.

People think they are free when they throw off the yoke of the Torah. However, unless one has the revealed wisdom of the Torah, he is at risk at becoming a "slave" to the fads and fashion of his society. Slavery is non-thinking action, rote behavior, following the impulse desires of the body. Our job on Pesach is to come out of slavery into true freedom and to develop a closer relationship with the Almighty!

During all eight days of Pesach we are forbidden to own or eat chametz (leavened bread - i.e., virtually any flour product not especially produced for Pesach) or have it in our possession (Exodus 13:7). Why the emphasis on being chametz-free? Chametz represents arrogance ("puffing up"). The only thing that stands between you and God ... is you. To come close to the Almighty, which is the ultimate pleasure in life and the opportunity of every mitzvah and holiday, one must remove his own personal barriers. The external act brings the internal appreciation - we remove chametz from our homes and likewise work on the character trait of humility.

To understand more about Passover and to have fascinating ideas to share at the Seder, go to: Check out: "All in the Seder"; "It Ain't Over 'til it's Passover"; "The ABC's of Passover"; and "The Passover Primer - An inspiring and thought-provoking compendium of articles."

For more on "Pesach" go to!


Hear classes on...
Download to Go
or Listen FREE On-Line


Torah Portion of the Week
Acharei Mos

Acharei Mos includes the Yom Kippur service where the Cohen Gadol cast lots to designate two goats - one to be sacrificed, the other to be driven to a place called Azazel - after the Cohen Gadol (the High Priest) confessed the sins of the people upon its head. Today it is a very popular epithet in Israel to instruct another person in the heat of an argument to "go to Azazel." I don't believe the intent, however, is to look for the goat....

The goat sent to Azazel carried away the sins of the Jewish people. This, I surmise, is the source of the concept of using a scapegoat. One thing you can truly give credit to the Jewish people - when we use a scapegoat, at least we use a real goat!

The Torah then proceeds to set forth the sexual laws - who you are not allowed to marry or have relations with. If one appreciates that the goal of life is to be holy, to perfect oneself and to be as much as possible like God, then he/she can appreciate that it is impossible to orgy at night and be spiritual by day.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And the Almighty spoke to Moshe after the death of the two sons of Aharon" (Leviticus 16:1).

Why does the Torah tell us that the Almighty spoke to Moshe after the death of the two sons of Aharon - and what lesson for our lives can we learn?

Rashi cites the thought of Rabbi Eliezer ben Azarya that this is analogous to an ill person who was visited by a physician. The doctor said to him, "Do not eat such and such foods, and do not sleep in a damp place." Then another physician came to him and said, "Do not eat such and such foods and do not sleep in a damp place in order that you should not die like this certain person did."

The second doctor will have a stronger effect than the first doctor. Therefore, the Torah emphasizes that the Almighty spoke to Moshe after the death of the two sons of Aharon. When involved in any of the services of the Tabernacle, great care must be taken not to make errors - for they could be fatal ... like they were for the two sons of Aharon.

From this Rashi we see an important lesson in how to make our communications more effective. It is not sufficient to convey to others abstract ideals and general warnings. Rather, we must try to add practical illustrations from everyday life describing the effects of negative behavior. Just telling someone that smoking is dangerous is not as effective as pointing out how a specific person died from a disease caused by smoking. Whenever appropriate, give examples of how others have lost out by engaging in counterproductive behavior. (Note: Familiarity with the laws of Loshon Hora, gossip, are necessary for this).

Similarly, for the good. When you tell someone about the benefits of proper behavior, bring examples from the lives of people who have gained much from having positive traits and doing good deeds.


(or go to

Jerusalem 6:32
Guatemala 6:14 - Hong Kong 6:24 - Honolulu 6:33
J'Burg 5:33 - London 7:38 - Los Angeles 7:01
Melbourne 5:36 - Mexico City 7:36 - Miami 7:22
New York 7:09 - Singapore 6:51 - Toronto 7:34


Being a parent is not always
about passing on what you know,
it is about passing on who you are.


In Loving Memory of

Sarah & David Cohen,
Vivian Goldberg,
and Opal Vilece

Melanie, Tony, Joshua,
and Sarah Sussman


Happy 40th Anniversary

Jimmy & Pat



1 2 3 2,897

🤯 ⇐ That's you after reading our weekly email.

Our weekly email is chock full of interesting and relevant insights into Jewish history, food, philosophy, current events, holidays and more.
Sign up now. Impress your friends with how much you know.
We will never share your email address and you can unsubscribe in a single click.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram