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Acharei Mot(Leviticus 16-18)

Acharei Mot 5760

GOOD MORNING!  "So what's the answer?" asked the young man. "What's the question?", I responded. "What's the answer to the Freedom Game? Who is the free-est -- the prisoner, the ship-wrecked, the rich addict, the bankrupt former rich man, the depressed deprived cigarette smoker, the quadriplegic or the institutionalized suicider?"

Like all good discussions, we start with a definition. "Free" means not having outside control over your actions, thoughts, behavior. There are different levels of freedom:

  1. the freedom over physical actions -- where you go, what you do.
  2. the freedom over what you think about
  3. the freedom to make moral decisions.

Deciding whether you are going to have chocolate or vanilla ice cream is not on the same level as deciding whether or not to return a lost wallet.

Perhaps the question of who is the free-est depends on which "playing board" the person is on. Moral decisions are a lot more difficult to make than physical ones. With physical decisions where one is enslaved, there is no choice because of physical restraint. With moral decisions, the "outside force" is one's desires and ability to rationalize.

Pirkei Avos, Ethics of Our Fathers (6 chapters of succinct wisdom found in the back of most siddurim, prayer books) asks, "Who is the mighty person?" and answers, "He who conquers his passions." The free-est person is the one who controls his passions, his desires to make moral decisions.


Q & A:  WHAT IS SEPHIRAT HA-OMER?

On the second day of Pesach, the Omer offering from the new barley crop was brought in the Temple in Jerusalem. It began a period of counting and preparation for Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah and the yearly celebration of re-accepting the Torah upon ourselves. This period is called Sephirat HaOmer, the counting of the Omer.

Forty-nine days are counted each year and on the fiftieth day is Shavuot, the Yom Tov celebrating the giving of the Torah. There is actually a Mitzvah to count each specific day which is done at the completion of Ma'ariv, the evening service.

This is a period of national semi-mourning (no weddings or even haircuts). It was during this period that Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students died for not showing proper respect towards each other. It is a time for us to reflect how we look upon and treat our fellow Jews as well as the tragedies that have befallen us because of unfounded (self-justified) hatred. It is a wonderful time to undertake to do an extra act of kindness; this will help to help bring perfection to the world and unity amongst Jews.

These 50 days also correspond to the seven weeks after the Exodus from Egypt when the Jewish people prepared themselves to receive the Torah at Mt. Sinai. When we left Egypt we were on the 49th level of Tuma, spiritual degradation. Each day we climbed one step higher in spirituality and holiness. Many people study one of the "48 Ways to Wisdom" (Ethics of the Fathers, 6:6) each day as a means to personal and spiritual growth. An excellent tape collection by the great educator and founder of Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Noah Weinberg, is available by calling (800) 864-2373. I refer to this collection of 25 tapes as the "Jewish Dale Carnegie Course" for getting the most out of life! It will be one of the great purchases in your life!


Torah Portion of the Week
Acharei Mot

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 - 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 High Priest, the Cohen Gadol, performs a special service in the Tent of Meeting on Yom Kippur. Only he performs this service and he does it alone. The Torah states, "And there shall be no man in the Tent of Meeting when he goes in to make atonement in the sacred place" (Leviticus 16:17). Why does the Torah emphasize, "and there shall be no man" when he does the service?

The commentary Degel Machaneh Ephraim, points out that the Cohen Gadol might feel conceited being the only one chosen from the entire nation to perform the sacred service on the most holy day of the year. He might focus on the honor he was receiving from others and how other people would be thinking of him with respect and even awe. Therefore, the Torah tells him, "There shall be no man," that is, the Cohen Gadol should mentally view the world as if there were no other people in existence. He should do this when he enters the tent of meeting to make atonement in the sacred place. By having this mental attitude, he frees himself from any thoughts of seeking honor and approval.

This is a useful technique for people who are worried about what others think about them. If no one else exists, then you do not need to worry what they think of you. In truth, others do not think about you as much as you think they do. And if they do think about what you do, it makes little practical difference -- specially, if you use this technique to free yourself from the harm and pain caused by the illusion that they are thinking about you and that it matters.



CANDLE LIGHTING - April 14:

Jerusalem 6:38   Miami 7:33  New York 7:31
L.A. 7:16  Hong Kong 6:29  Singapore 6:49
Guatemala  6:00  Honolulu   6:37  J'Burg 5:22
Melbourne 5:19  Moscow 7:42  London 8:00
Atlanta 8:01  Toronto 7:59



QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

Whether you think you can or you can't
... you're right!



Dedicated by...

Gila Rosenhaus Weiner

Published: April 26, 2000

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