This week’s double sedra is full of moral directives - not just on religious and ceremonial matters, but on commandments which govern how we are to live together. Among these directives is the famous phrase “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Rabbi Akiva explains that this is a fundamental principle and one of the pillars of Torah and Judaism.
Acharei Mot Kedoshim
In this week’s double sidra, in the second portion of Kedoshim, we read in 20:24 ‘you shall inherit their land…flowing with milk and honey. I am HaShem your G-d who has separated you from the peoples’.
Two verses later in 20:26, we read ‘you shall be holy for me, for I, HaShem am holy and I will separate you from the peoples to be mine’.
The Torah never uses extra words when it doesn’t need to. Further, these verses are so close together in the text, why the repetition?
The Book of Vayika is devoted primarily to two distinct themes; PURITY AND HOLINESS, which are called in Hebrew by the terms of TOHARAH and KEDUSHAH. The first six Sidrot deal with the concept of purity and the last 4, beginning with the Sidra of Kedoshim, deal with the concept of Kedushah. A large section of The Sidra of Acharei Mot deals with the various purifications that take place on the Day of Atonement. In ancient times, the entire Tabernacle was purified as well as every individual in the nation. Today, we only purify ourselves before the Almighty.
Parshas Achrei Mot ends with the verse ‘you shall safeguard my charge’. One interpretation of this sentence is that the sages were to put up ‘fences’ around the Torah to protect both the Torah and the Jewish people. The protection of the Torah, so it would not be changed, and the Jewish People so they would not assimilate.
Vayikra is the middle book of five, and Acharei Kedoshim are the two central Sidrot. At the centre of chapter 19, which opens Kedoshim, are verses 17 and 18 which are, by their position, the apex, of the Torah: “Do not hate your brother in your heart. Admonish your fellow and do not take sin upon yourself because of him. Do not take revenge nor bear a grudge against the children of your people. Love your neighbour’s welfare as if it were your own: I am Hashem”