Editor's note: The HuffTorah is an overview of the Torah reading of the week, which is a double portion found in the Book of Leviticus 16:1-20:27, and includes links to additional resources for study and discussion. Read the full text of Parshat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim with interlinear Hebrew/English.
God tells Moses to tell Aaron not to come before the Holy of Holies regularly -- so that he will not die like his sons Nadab and Abihu -- because the Divine Presence appears there as a pillar of cloud always.
On the Day of Atonement, Aaron should enter the Holy of Holies. He should bring a young bull and ram, for a sin-offering and burnt-offering respectively. He should immerse himself in the ritual bath. He should wear the linen tunic, pants, sash and turban. He should take two male goats (sin-offering) and a ram (burnt-offering) from the Children of Israel. He should atone for himself and his family through the bull sin-offering first. He should designate (through lots) one goat for God as a sin-offering and one to be cast off a cliff. He should slaughter his bull offering. He should place a handful of incense on coals taken from the outer altar so that a cloud covers the ark's lid. He should do this so that he will not die. He should take smoe blood from the bull, sprinkling it once with his index finger on the top edge of the ark's lid and then seven times on the front of the lid. He should slaughter the male goat from the Children of Israel that is for God and sprinkle its blood in the same way, atoning for their sins. He should sprinkle blood in the Tent of Meeting similarly. No other person should be in the Tent with Aaron when he does this. He should exit the Tent of Meeting and sprinkle some of the goat and bull's blood on the horns of the altar and all around it.
When he has finished this, he should bring the live male goat and place his hands upon its head and confess for all of the sins (intentional or otherwise) of the Children of Israel, placing the sins upon the goat's head. He should send the goat with an appointed man into uninhabited desert. This person can only return to the camp after immersing himself in the ritual bath.
Aaron, too, should immerse himself in the ritual bath, and then put on his golden priestly garments. He should offer his ram and the people's ram, making the fat go up in smoke.
Someone else should take the skin, flesh and waste of the earlier sin-offerings outside of the camp, where it should all be burned in a fire. This person must also immerse himself before returning.
Aaron should remove his priestly garments, immersing himself once again. He should put on his linen. He should remove the incense-bearing ladle and fire pan. He should remove his linen and store them away. They should never be used again.
This Day of Atonement is an eternal statute. On the 10th of the seventh month, the people should afflict themselves and do no work as on the Sabbath. God will atone for them. God will cleanse them of sin. Only the High Priest may carry out the above atonement procedures.
God tells Moses to tell Aaron and his sons: Any person who slaughters an ox, lamb or goat inside the camp or outside of the camp and doesn't bring the offering to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting -- it is as if he or she has killed someone. Likewise if sacrificial blood is sprinkled outside of the Tent. The Children should bring their offerings before God, to the priest, and slaughter them as peace-offerings. The priest will take care of the blood and the fat. The Children should not make offerings to demons. This is eternal. Anyone who does not bring their burnt- or peace-offerings before God at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting will be cut off from his people.
No Child of Israel should eat blood, for the soul every creature depends on the blood. That is why blood is placed on the altar. The animal's blood atones for the souls of men.
Any one who traps and kills a wild animal or bird that is kosher should cover the spilled blood with earth.
Any one who eats a kosher bird that died naturally should immerse himself in the ritual bath. He will remain unclean until evening. The person who does not immerse himself bears the consequences of this sin.
God tells Moses to tell the Children of Israel: God is God, your God. Do not follow the practices of Egypt. Do not follow the customs of Canaan. Fulfill the rational laws and guard the laws that are beyond understanding. Follow the wisdom of these laws. Live by them. God is God, your God.
No man or woman may have relations with a close relative -- a father, a mother, a sister, a brother, a daughter, a son, an uncle, an aunt, a niece, a nephew, a sister-in-law, a brother-in-law. No person may marry two sisters.
Do not sleep with a woman who is menstruating. Do not sleep with the wife of another person.
Do not give your children to pagans. Do not profane the name of your God. God is God.
Do not lie with a man as you would lie with a woman. This is an abomination.
Do not lie with an animal.
Do not do these things, as the other nations have done. These things defile the land. The courts should enforce these laws, and you will not become defiled.
God is God, your God.
Questions: Why is Aaron warned not to go into the Holy of Holies "after the death" of his sons? Why rub it in? Why does he only wear the linen garments and not the golden ones? Is this really all it takes to be forgiven -- a bunch of animal sacrifices? Why is the blood of wild kosher animals covered? And why only the wild and not the domesticated? Why is fidelity so important? Why is the prohibition against giving your children to pagan priests placed amid forbidden relationships?
God tells Moses to tell the Children of Israel: Be holy for God, your God, is holy. Fear your mom and dad, but do not listen if they tell you to break God's commandments. Do not turn to idols. Do not make molten gods. God is God, your God.
Slaughter peace-offerings to God with the correct intention -- that it should be eaten on that or the next day, but on the third day should be burned. God will not accept it otherwise. The person who eats of the offering on the third day is cut off from his people.
Reap your harvest, but leave the corners of your field and leave the wheat that falls. Pick your grapes, but leave the young ones and do not gather the fallen grapes. These should be left for the poor and for the convert. God is God, your God.
Do not steal money. Do not lie or make false oaths. Do not withhold payment from someone -- not even daily hired workers. Do not rob. Do not curse a deaf person. Do not curse anyone. Do not place a stumbling block before the blind. Fear God. God is God.
Do not pervert justice. Do not gossip. Do not stand by while someone's life is in danger. God is God.
Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your peer, yes, but do not embarrass him in public. Do not take revenge or hold grudges.
Love your fellow as you love yourself. God is God.
Do not crossbreed livestock. Do not sow a field with mixed seeds. Do not wear a garment that has a mixture of wool and linen.
If a man lies with a woman who is a nearly freed non-Jewish slave who is almost married to a Jewish slave, there should be an investigation. Once verified, the transgressors should not be put death, since she is not completely married (since she is not completely freed). She is given lashes. He must bring a guilt-offering ram to the Tent of Meeting before God. The priest willa tone for him. He will be forgiven.
In Canaan, when you plant fruit trees, you may not eat the fruit for three years. Fourth-year fruit is holy and may only be eaten in Jerusalem. Fifth-year fruit may be freely eaten.
Do not eat sacrificial meat if the blood has not yet been sprinkled on the altar. Do not practice divination. Do not remove hair from around the head's circumference. Do not cut the extremities of your beard. Do ont scratch your flesh in mourning. Do not tattoo yourself. God is God.
Do not defile your daughter, allowing her to have relations outside of marriage, lest the land become unfaithful.
Revere God's sanctuary, but do not build it on the Sabbath. God is God.
Do not turn to the sorcery of knowledge and desire and defile yourself. God is God.
Rise in the presence of an old person. Honor the presence of a sage. Fear God. God is God.
Do not remind a convert of his past. The convert should be considered as a native. You were once strangers, too. God is your God, and God is the stranger's God.
Do not pervert justice. Use only accurate scales. God is God, your God, who brought you out of Egypt.
Observe all the commandments that are beyond understanding and those that are understandable. Fulfill them. God is God.
God tells Moses to tell the Children of Israel: Any person who gives his children in worship of Molech, the pagan god, should be put to death by being pelted with stones. God will deal directly with this transgressor, cutting him off from his people. If you should ignore this person, and not put him to death, God will cut him off (but spare his family).
Do not turn to the sorcery of knowledge and desire. God will cut off the person who does.
Separate yourself from idolatry. Be sanctified. Be holy. God is God, your God. Fulfill the commandments that are beyond understanding. God is God, the Sanctifier.
Put to death a person who curses his mom or dad, even if they are already dead themselves. Death should be by stoning.
Adulterers should be put to death by strangulation. If the adulterer is a man who has slept with his father's wife -- or a man who has slept with his daughter-in-law -- he and she should be put to death by stoning.
Death by stoning for the man who lies with a man as he would lie with a woman.
A man who takes his mother-in-law and her mother as wives should be burned to death, along with these women.
A man who lies with an animal should be killed along with the animal.
A brother and sister who are married will be cut off from their people.
A man who sleeps with a woman who is menstruating will be cut off. So will she.
Do not lie with your aunt. Both you and her will die childless.
Do not take your brother's wife. Those who do will be childless.
Guard all of God's commands and the land will not spit you out. Do not follow the practices of the nation that you are replacing in the land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey. God is God, your God, who has distinguished you.
Distinguish between pure and impure animals and between pure and impure birds.
Be holy to God, for God is holy, and you are distinguished from other nations to be God's nation.
A person who practices the sorcery of knowledge and desire should be put to death if such sorcery was witnessed and the sorcerer was warned not to do it. They should be pelted by stones. It's their fault.
Questions: What is the difference between a thief and a robber -- between stealing an robbing? Why is the beard given such importance? Who is Molech, and what does he want from our children? Why should anyone live a life doing something she or he will never understand?
Resources for further commentary, discussion and reflection:
- To Stand or Not to Stand Your Ground -- While the right to self-defense is a principle deeply rooted in Jewish biblical and rabbinic sources, this week's Torah portion actually calls on us to think about how not to stand our ground as we respond to the needs of others. (ON Scripture - The Torah)
- Haftorah Acharei Mot-Kedoshim Summary -- In the supplemental haftorah, found in 9:7-15, the prophet Amos warns Israel about what befalls sinful nations, though he ultimately promises redemption. (My Jewish Learning)
- Rashi on Parshat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim -- The classic commentator in all his interpretive glory. (Chabad)
- The Animated Parshat Tazria -- "If the Torah permits the eating of animals, why would it limit where they can be eaten, what kind of animal can be eaten, and which parts can be eaten? What is the purpose of these regulations?" (G-dcast)
- Parshat Kedoshim: Stumbling Blocks -- "A great many of our environmental concerns are caused by the subtle, but potentially lethal stumbling block of consumerism." (Canfei Nesharim)
- Unconditional Love -- "When we understand that the very essence of self is a soul, and this soul is a breath of the infinite unity of all creation, and a slice of the infinite is shared by all - then we will naturally love another as our self." (IYYUN)