Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5775
Acharei Mot-Kedoshim (Leviticus 16-20 )
GOOD MORNING! What do you want out of life? What is your purpose? What would truly give you satisfaction and happiness?
The renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote in Man's Search for Meaning, "Man's search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a 'secondary rationalization' of instinctual drives... A public-opinion poll was conducted a few years ago in France. The results showed that 89 percent of the people polled admitted that man needs 'something' to live for."
According to Western ideology, there is no absolute purpose to life. Good and evil, meaning and meaninglessness, are matters of personal taste. Yet with all the "freedoms" this philosophy embraces, it disposes of the one and only ingredient that gives life profound and lasting satisfaction: a transcendent purpose -- the recognition of a Creator who cares about man's actions. A Creator Who invests him with the ability to make choices that either further God's purpose or undermine it.
As vitally as he needs to breathe, eat and sleep, every human being needs to know that his existence matters. The philosophies of relativism and purposelessness, however, inevitably engender in man gnawing questions about the meaning and purpose of his life. "If nothing really matters, why am I making such an effort to be a good person? Is life just about killing time until death?"
Understandably, this creates a subconscious anxiety which many people dread uncovering. Better to convince oneself that life has no purpose at all, than to confront the tormenting realization that I have lived life in ignorance of that purpose.
Those who do confront the question often embark on a painful, protracted search for meaning. Frequently, they drift through the array of alternatives to Western values, such as Zen, Buddhism and Transcendental Meditation. The greater majority, however, accepts society's insistence that there are no answers, and tries to deaden their pain through various mediums of distraction.
Some lose themselves in the world of entertainment and illusion -- television, movies and video games. Others dedicate mind and soul to "making it" in their careers. Many, in an attempt to relieve their anxiety, adopt the belief that there is no Creator, no responsibility, no accountability and no goals. Without a viable alternative to meaninglessness, these people have no choice but to avoid contemplating life too seriously.
However, despite the best efforts of distraction and rationalization, our souls long for meaning. And until the soul receives the nourishment (read: meaning and purpose) it so vitally needs, man will never find lasting tranquillity. On some level (most often subconscious), he will continue to be plagued by disharmony between what he deeply craves and what Western ideology claims life is about.
As Torah Jews, our inner longing to lead meaningful, productive lives is nurtured and guided. The goal is to have a close relationship with God and to perfect ourselves to be as God-like as possible. Our tools are the mitzvot, the commandments. The framework for success and meaning is neatly laid out for us in the intricate structure of Torah life. Best of all, we need not struggle to find the goal. We are free from the start to focus our energies and resources on achieving it.
Through Torah, the most mundane and routine activities of life are elevated to a Higher purpose. While we may never accomplish all that we should, a Torah lifestyle removes the specter of meaninglessness that haunts so many lives. The Torah provides an internal stability, gained from the knowledge that life is purposeful and valuable. We are given ongoing opportunities to accomplish things that are meaningful -- and the realization that our choices truly matter. This is tremendously empowering and reassuring.
(from the teachings of Rabbi Noah Weinberg, adapted from The Eye of a Needle by Rabbi Eric Coopersmith)
To delve more into making life meaningful, read Twerski on Spirituality, by Rabbi Abraham Twerski -- available from your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242 -- and hang in there until next week!
Acharei Mot - Kedoshim, Leviticus 16:1 - 20:27
Acharei Mot 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 - confesses 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 symbolically 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.
The Torah portion of Kedoshim invokes the Jewish people to be holy! And then it proceeds with the spiritual directions on how to achieve holiness, closeness to the Almighty. Within it lie the secrets and the prescription for Jewish continuity. If any group of people is to survive as an entity, it must have common values and goals -- a direction and a meaning. By analyzing this portion we can learn much about our personal and national destiny.
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from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
The Torah states:
"The Tent of Meeting that dwells with them in the midst of their impurities" (Lev. 16:16).
The Talmud (Yoma 57a) comments on this, "Even when they are in a state of contamination, the Divine Presence is with them."
Although disobeying the Divine will sets up a barrier between man and God, it is somewhat like a one-way mirror. We cause ourselves to be distant from God, but He is never distant from us. This is rather easy to understand. We see children who reject their parents, but regardless of how defiant the child may be, the parents' love for him is as intense as ever, and they long for his return to them. God is there waiting.
When Reb Mendel of Kotzk first visited Reb Simcha Bunim of P'shis'che, the latter asked him, "Young man, where is God? Reb Mendel answered, "The entire world is full of His glory." Reb Simcha Bunim repeated the same question and Reb Mendel responded, "There is no place that is devoid of Him." When Reb Simcha Bunim asked for the third time the same question, Reb Mendel replied, "If my answers do not satisfy you, then you tell me." Reb Simcha Bunim answered, "God can be found wherever He is welcomed."
"He who is haughty of eye and large of desire, him I cannot tolerate" (Psalms 101:5). Of a vain and arrogant person the Talmud quotes God as saying, "He and I cannot share the same dwelling" (Arachin 15b). God is indeed everywhere, but He withdraws His presence from a vain and arrogant person. A vain and egotistical person is one who is his own god. There is no form of idolatry as absolute as the person who worships himself.
If a person truly believes that he possesses a Divine neshama (soul), he will realize that he has great worth, and even if he may have gone astray in his behavior, he is nevertheless worthy by virtue of his Divine neshama. Anyone with a profound feeling of unworthiness must be in denial that he has within himself the breath of God. As long as we feel a desire to be close to God, we know ourselves to be of His essence and are able to grow spiritually.
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
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