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Acharei Mot 5776

Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16-18 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  When I was 12 years old I returned from summer camp to find that my collection of 300 first edition comic books had been thrown out. To prevent a reoccurrence, I purchased a steel file box with lock and key to keep safe future comic book purchases. I rightly figured that the box would neither be broken into to throw out my comics nor would the box itself be thrown out.

Fifty-two years later the story came up in conversation with my sons at our dinner table. One son asked me, "What happened to the steel file box?" and "Which comic books were in it?" I told him that I had the box in my closet and frankly I had no idea of what was in it since I hadn't opened the box in over 40 years. Per request, I brought the box to table, wiped away the dust and opened it. Inside were 80 comics perfectly preserved ... #1 X-men, #1 Spiderman ... and more! My sons were more than excited as they powered up the laptop and then checked the prices on Ebay.

Why did I collect those comics and keep them all these years? Why do many, perhaps most people have what seems to be a hard-wired desire/need to collect?

I think I collected the comics because I enjoyed them and had pleasure in possessing them. Why first editions? When I was a kid I read an article about people complaining about the price of property. The writer opined that people always complained about the price of property lamenting that if only they bought it when they were young when it was inexpensive. He wrote that if they would buy while they were young and hold on to it, they would reap the benefits and wouldn't complain. Since a home purchase was not something I could afford on my quarter a week allowance, I opted for first editions.

People will usually acquire something that has utilitarian, esthetic or monetary value. There is something intrinsically meaningful in collecting, in striving to complete one's collection and in having completed the collection. However, sometimes after completing a collection, there's still an existential angst that something is still missing. A person may buy that #1 Spiderman, but it won't bring back the joy and thrill he had when he read it the first time when he was 8 years old.

Perhaps the reason might be -- we strive to fill a spiritual need with physical things. No amount of material items can fill a spiritual hole.

It occurred to me that perhaps the Almighty has programmed us to be collectors to motivate us towards completing the ultimate truly meaningful spiritual collection -- the mitzvot, His commandments. The mitzvot touch every aspect of life and of society and are the means by which we acquire our portion in the World to Come! They are our guide not only for our own life, but for bringing sanity and order to the world.

The Torah teaches that a Jew is obligated to keep 613 categories of commandments (until I was 22, I only thought there were 10 Commandments...). Each of the mitzvot is an opportunity for us to perfect our character, elevate our spirituality and connect to the Almighty. When man submits himself to the Divine Will, he proceeds to touch and link with Infinity.

There are benefits that we can sometimes see in doing the mitzvot, but we fulfill the mitzvos because they are the will of the Almighty, which He commanded for our good. Just as when one goes to a doctor with an ailment, the doctor may prescribe a medicine. Knowing that the doctor has knowledge and experience and our best interest at heart, we trust him and follow his instructions, though we do not understand the interactions of the chemical processes.

To learn more about the 613 commandments -- to begin or expand your collection -- go to ... or purchase a copy of The Mitzvot:The Commandments and Their Rationale by Rabbi Abraham Chill.


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Torah Portion of the week

Acharei Mos, Leviticus 16:1 - 18:30

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 phrase in the vernacular in Israel in the heat of an argument to instruct another person 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 you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances, which a person shall do and live by them, I am the Almighty." (Leviticus 18:5)

What lesson for life can we learn from the words "and live by them"?

Rabbi Yeshayahu Hurwitz (author of Shnai Luchos HaBris) comments that when you do mitzvot they should be done with life -- that is, with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. This makes your whole being come alive.

There is no comparison between doing a mitzvah feeling oppressed or forced as opposed to doing the mitzvah with joy and excitement. The life of a person who lives with joy is a life of pleasure and elevation -- and one which motivates others. When they see how much enjoyment you have from doing good deeds, they will be motivated to emulate your behavior.

What does one do if he doesn't feel enthusiasm? Mesilat Yesharim, The Path of Righteousness (a spectacular book on how to perfect your character and available in English), teaches that the outward act brings the inner appreciation. Act as if you felt enthusiasm and you will feel enthusiasm!

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"My ordinances you shall do, and My statutes you shall observe, to walk with them, I am the Lord, Your God." (Lev. 18:4).

What does the Torah mean "to walk with them?"

The Ksav Sofer, a famous Hungarian rabbi, commented that the words "to walk with them" mean that a person needs to walk from one level to the next level. That is, a person should constantly strive to grow and elevate himself.

Recognize the challenge or obstacle, set yourself to overcome it, make a plan, take action ... and take pleasure that you made the effort!



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Candle Lighting Times

May 6
(or go to

Jerusalem 6:48
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Quote of the Week

Forbidden fruit is responsible for many a bad jam



In Loving Memory of Our Father
Herbert Schnider
(Chaim ben Yosef)

on the anniversary of
his yahrtzeit,
25 Nissan 5764

In Honor of Our Mother
Muriel Schnider

Dr. Stuart and
Elizabeth Schnider
Robin Polansky,
Marissa and Meredith

With Deep Appreciation to
Daniel Friedmann

author of
The Genesis Code One
The Broken Gift

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