Yom Haatzmaut runs straight (at least ה’ אייר does) into Parshiyot Acharai Mot/Kedoshim that we will be reading this Shabbot. What is the significance of reading these two Torah portions immediately following our celebration of Yom Haatzmaut?
The overall theme of Acharai Mot and that of Kedoshim are very different. The former continues the theme of tumah and tahara that was first introduced in Parshat Shmini and then further developed in Tazria/Metzora. Both the topics of the Avoda of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur and the forbidden relationships found in Acharai Mot revolve around the concept of purity – tahara. Kedoshim introduces a new stage in the progression of Vayikra. This new phase, which spans the rest of the Sefer until the end, involves the theme of Kedusha.
While the two parshiyot are different in their overall theme, many concepts and ideas that are expressed in Acharai Mot, are mentioned again in Kedoshim.
Acharai Mot teaches us:
כמעשה ארץ מצרים אשר ישבתם בה לא תעשו וכמעשה ארץ כנען אשר אני מביא אתכם שמה לא תעשו ובחקתיהם לא תלכו: ויקרא פרק יח פסוק ג
“Do not perform the practice of the land of Egypt in which you dwelled; and do not perform the practice of the land of Canaan to which I bring you, and do not follow their traditions.”
Kedoshim echoes this idea of not following the ways of Mitzrayim and Canaan in a broader form by stating twice:
אני יקוק אלהיכם אשר הבדלתי אתכם מן העמים: ויקרא פרק כ:כד
“I am Hashem, your God, Who has separated you from the peoples.”
והייתם לי קדשים כי קדוש אני יקוק ואבדל אתכם מן העמים להיות לי: ויקרא פרק כ:כו
You shall be holy for Me, for I Hashem am holy; and I have separated you from the peoples to be Mine.”
How do we in fact separate ourselves from the other nations as the Torah demands?
Once again both parshiyot have a similar phraseology.
Acharai Mot commands:
את משפטי תעשו ואת חקתי תשמרו ללכת בהם אני יקוק אלהיכם: ושמרתם את חקתי ואת משפטי אשר יעשה אתם האדם וחי בהם אני יקוק: ויקרא פרק יח:ד,ה
“Carry out my laws and safeguard My decrees to follow them; I am Hashem, your God. You Shall observe My decrees and My laws, which man shall carry out and by which he shall live – I am Hashem.”
In almost word for word fashion Kedoshim stresses:
ושמרתם את כל חקתי ואת כל משפטי ועשיתם אתם: ויקרא פרק כ פסוק כב
“You shall observe all My decrees and all My ordinances and perform them”
These ideas of being separated from non-Jews and strict adherence to keeping the Torah, while certainly highlighted in Acharai Mot/Kedoshim, are not uncommon in the rest of Chamisha Chumshai Torah. We find time and again the Torah returning to these fundamental core themes.
The uniqueness of Acharai Mot/Kedoshim is the specific punishment mentioned if we do not uphold our side in the Brit.
We are warned in Acharai Mot:
ותטמא הארץ ואפקד עונה עליה ותקא הארץ את ישביה: ויקרא פרק יח פסוק כה
“The Land became contaminated and I recalled its iniquity upon it; and the Land disgorged its inhabitants.”
In Kedoshim the concept is reinforced:
ולא תקיא אתכם הארץ אשר אני מביא אתכם שמה לשבת בה: ויקרא פרק כ:כב
(by keeping the laws of the Torah) “then the Land to which I bring you to dwell will not disgorge you.”
I once entered into a conversation with someone about the Tfilla לשלום המדינה for Medinat Yisrael that is said on Shabbot in many shuls. The other person was trying to convince me why it should not be said. After listening to my friend make interesting points, I pointed out two key phrases in the Tfilla. We ask Hashem: “ושלח אורך ואמיתך לראשיה שריה ויועציה” “And send Your light and Your truth to its leaders ministers and advisors.” “ויחד לבבנו לאהבה וליראה את שמך, ולשמור את כל דברי תורתך” “And unify our hearts to love and fear Your name, and to keep all of the words of Your Torah.”
I turned to my friend and said, “isn’t it worthwhile to dovin that Israel’s leaders and ministers, many of whom still lack the commitment to the centrality of the Torah and keeping the Mitzvot, return to the path of the Torah!?” My friend responded, “Absolutely!”
Recently, I heard Rav Mordichia Neugroschel, a popular Rav in Israel, say, “You would have expected that since Israeli culture has adopted much of western culture and the ways of non-Jews as its own that Israel would be beloved by the countries of the world. But we see the opposite; we are more hated by the world at this moment than at any other time in Israel’s history. When did our nation attain the greatest reverence and affection from the nations of the world? We came to this level during the reign of Shlomo Hamelech and the Beit Hamikdash, when the Jewish People as a whole kept true to the Torah!”
We have much to celebrate and be thankful to Hashem for on Yom Haatzmaut and I hope that everyone did so. But now it is time to refocus our attention on what we have to do to earn our place in the Chosen Land. Our ticket to maintaining this cherished land is simply to keep Torah and Mitzvot. Unfortunately twice in the past we lost the privilege to be here.
With this in mind we dovin to Hashem with all of our might and all of our soul, leaving aside all politics and trivial matters,
“ושלח אורך ואמיתך לראשיה שריה ויועציה… ויחד לבבנו לאהבה וליראה את שמך, ולשמור את כל דברי תורתך”
And may we see the rebuilding of the 3rd Temple and witness the Final Redemption. Amen!