Acharei Mot 5782 – A Guide for A Life Well Lived

By: Michael Carr

Of the messages in this week’s Parasha (which is the parasha that is located actually in the very center of the entire Torah),   Acharei Mot literally means, ‘After the Death’ in reference to the deaths of Aaron’s sons Nadav & Avihu.  

It is said that after one hears the title of the Parasha the intent is for us to reflect upon our own mortality (perhaps something some of us engage in daily or maybe around the high holidays).

Specifically, it may inspire us to think about how we have been living our lives, and prompts us to ask if we have we made the right choices  and do we continue to make the right choices in our life or perhaps should we be making different choices?

This is about self reflection. The type of ‘self-inventory’ we are to consider during Yom Kippur.

The Torah portion is about discipline. G-d demands this from everyone following the deaths of Aaron’s sons.  G-d also has expectations that all Israelites follow proscribed rules related to three areas of the Tabernacle:  1) Meat, (presumably due to sacrifices) where, when and how to eat it; Sex, (the complete guide of where, who/who not to have it with); and finally, 3) Atonement-the how and when to clean up your ‘act’ (you know from those ‘oops moments’ from meat, sex and other human foibles) for inclusion in annual inscription for another year.

So to assure this parasha is as relevant today as it was when first published, laws/commandments governing meat are still relevant (for the moment, vegetarians and vegans get a pass). For example, no eating blood, no eating corpses (night of the living dead-zombies excluded) and meat should be slaughtered under supervision (the Levites were often under watchful eyes when providing Kohanim with sacrificial expiated animal parts for burning at the altar of the Tabernacle though Levites were entitled to a portion of the meat involved with the communal sacrifice).

Sex is also covered in Acharei Mot. Essentially the Torah directs us to have healthy loving relationships and avoid detestable practices like sleeping with your sister or animals or….well cultural behaviors that emerged from say the Canaanite clan/tribe that may have practiced/endorsed (one of which was the sacrifice of children for the idol known as Molech).

What about Yom Kippur- the Day of Atonement? As we know this religious observance is marked with particular diet and clothing requirements, along with moment by moment reflections upon aspects of our lives that  need fixing all of which takes place over 24 hours.  Centuries ago, rituals included a single Kohane that stood in the Tabernacle with much blood and animal sacrifice. Today, we are each individually responsible for considering how we atone for our past, and plan for our present and future.

Essentially the purpose of this parasha is its emphasis on the importance of discipline, order, rules and regulations for what a well lived life should ‘look like’. Generally this portion of Leviticus was about the establishment of specific boundaries of acceptable behaviors that G-d wanted everyone to follow.  Of course some of these rules established centuries ago have changed/evolved over time and are no longer relevant though let’s leave this for another D’var.

So whether it’s about eating meat or fasting for Yom Kippur or how we love, G-d wants us to apply the required discipline and self regulation outlined in Torah to our daily lives for a life well lived.

Good Shabbos!