Acharei Mot 5761

June 23, 2009

7 min read


Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16-18 )

GOOD MORNING!  Many years ago in Israel there lived a couple with a little girl. Because the mother was afraid to have her daughter travel via public transportation, they sent her to a nearby religious school though they were not religious. There the girl learned of the beauty of Torah and the beauty of Shabbat. Incessantly the girl would ask her mother to light Shabbat candles and the mother promised, but didn't do it. She would get home late or be out with her husband, but never got around to lighting.

The girl decided that she would light them herself. She went to the corner store and asked the storekeeper for two candles. Knowing that hers was not a religious family, the storekeeper figured that she must want Yahrzeit candles (memorial candles lit on the anniversary of the passing of one's closest relatives) since even the most non-religious Jews light them. Friday night came her parents were out, so the little girl lit the two candles before the sun went down.

When her parents returned they were shocked to see the two Yahrzeit candles lit. They woke up their daughter to ask the meaning of the two candles. The daughter sleepily replied, "Since you wouldn't light for me, I lit for you."

I don't know the end of the story. Did her mother light for her from that point on? I sure hope so! If parents want their children to love being Jewish and to eventually marry someone Jewish, they have to give their children a warm Jewish home. Your actions and attitudes are your children's heritage. If you love Judaism and live it, likely so will your child. Shabbat is essential and probably the best place to start.

Parents are often puzzled why their children don't have the same feeling for Jews and Judaism that they do. The answer is simple: emotions and feelings are NOT transferred in the DNA. We are a product of our experiences; that's why we feel and believe as we do. Speaking philosophy and intellectual appreciation do not touch the heart of a child and do not transfer a love of Judaism to the next generation. If we want our children to feel positive about being Jewish they have to see it in the home, sense the joy and partake in it themselves.

So, how does one bring Shabbat (Shabbos in the Ashkenazie pronunciation) into his/her home? Here are some basics for a start that can be incorporated into one's lifestyle fairly painlessly:

  1. The mother lights candles.

  2. The father makes Kiddush (a prayer over a cup of wine sanctifying the Sabbath Day).

  3. A Sabbath dinner with two Challahs (special braided breads).

I highly recommend not answering the phone at least during the meal to preserve the atmosphere. One can build from here!

I know that if you have never experienced Shabbat, it is uncomfortable, even strange to do. Perhaps you know someone who observes Shabbat who can invite you over? Believe me, Shabbat observers love to have guests. A person cannot love what he doesn't know or hasn't experienced.

There is a magnificent book entitled "Friday Night and Beyond - The Shabbat Experience Step-by-Step" written by an articulate, sensitive writer, Lori Palatnik. The book not only details step by step what to do, she explains the meaning behind the steps and includes reflections from people who have taken these first steps.

To learn the blessings and songs (yes, there are Shabbat songs that are sung at the table!) be sure to get Cantor Mayer Davis' spectacular Shabbat for Starters (either CD or cassette) which comes with The Shabbat Table Handbook which features a linear transliteration, instructions and explanations. He performs a great service in making it possible to learn the melodies and the words! Both Friday Night and Shabbat for Starters are available from your local Jewish book store or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242.

Ellen Goldberg, Program coordinator of Greater Miami Jewish Federation, has published a comprehensive, beautifully produced "Shabbat Home Celebration Resource Guide" available by calling her at 305-576-4000, ext. 345 or writing her at: 4200 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL 33137. Try Shabbat; it's beautiful!

Portion of the Week

Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

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.


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 keep on growing and elevating himself.

It is not enough to keep on the same level that you were on the previous day. Rather, each day should be a climb higher than the day before. When difficult tests come your way, you might not always appreciate them. The only way to keep on elevating yourself is to keep passing more and more difficult life-tests. View every difficulty as a means of elevating yourself by applying the appropriate Torah principles. At the end of each day, ask yourself, "What did I do today to elevate myself a little higher?" If you cannot find an answer, ask yourself, "What can I plan to do tomorrow to elevate myself?"

The Torah instructs us, "You shall not stand idly by the blood of your fellow man" (Lev. 19:16). When someone's life is in danger we are forbidden to stand idly by if we are able to save him.

Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, once the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, was late in coming home. His daughter found him drawing water for two young boys whose parents were ill. The rabbi was afraid that they might fall into the well.

His daughter told him that she thought it was beneath his dignity, "What will people say?"

Rabbi Sonnenfeld replied, "What would Heaven say if I would not help these children? Could I go home and calmly eat my breakfast while these poor young children are endangering their lives in order to bring water for their incapacitated parents?"

(or go to

Jerusalem  6:43
Guatemala 6:02  Hong Kong 6:33  Honolulu 6:40
J'Burg 5:17  London 8:10  Los Angeles 7:21
Melbourne 5:12  Miami 7:35  Moscow 8:55

New York 7:37  Singapore  6:48


A parent owes his child three things:
(1) Example
(2) Example
(3) Example.

Dedicated by...

In Loving Memory of
Rabbi Avigdor Miller
Spiritual Father to
Thousands of Returnees to Torah

Next Steps