Parshat Acharei Mot – Kedoshim

Torah Reading for Week of April 22-28, 2018

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, That Is What You’ll Do For Me ”
By Cantor Bruce Shapiro, ’17

The views expressed in this drash are those of the author. We welcome Torah insights and teachings from all viewpoints, and encourage dialogue to strengthen the diversity of our academy.

“You shall each revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths:  I the Lord am your God.” (Ex. 19:3)

 

Over the past 10 years, my 87-year-old mother has been deteriorating in her mental capacity due to dementia.  Over the years, I have watched her go from one who was independent to one who is now totally dependent on others for her daily activities in life.  This is how life is….when we are born, our parents nurture us to maturity and when we grow old, we hope our children or others will be there for when we are ready to depart this world.

 

Growing up, I watched my parents take care of my grandparents financially, physically, and spiritually.  They set the example of how to live a life full of love, accommodation, and hard work for our family and our extended family.  It is a special job to be able to take care of our elderly.  They can be difficult, and they can be loving, sometimes all in the same hour!

 

The word “tira’u,” meaning “shall revere,” is in the plural referring to both men and women (Kiddushin 30b).  When we honor our parents we honor Hashem.  We know this because the same language is used when we are commanded to “revere Hashem your God and you shall serve Him.”  In turn, we revere our parents at the same level as we revere Hashem (Kiddushin 30b).1

 

When one disrespects a parent, one disrespects Hashem.  As a parent, we generally do not tolerate a child being disrespectful and we, in turn, help that child understand what he/she did and provide corrective action (sometimes punishment, depending on the parents’ style, and sometimes a teachable moment).   We do not do this just for our own ego.  This movement towards understanding provides a path toward doing the right thing in life and, in so doing, that child honors Hashem.

 

In Kedoshim, what does it really mean to be “Holy” and to honor God?  In Midrash Va-Yikra Rabbah many variations on the theme appear.  Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai describes “holy or holiness” as a “sense of justice” as in a quote from Isaiah that “the Lord of hosts is exalted through justice.”  Rabbi Judah thinks that holiness means distinctive, saying, “The distinction You (God) conferred in Your world is eternal.”  Rabbi Levi relates Holy to the “uniqueness” of the Land of Israel.  Because we are B’Tzelem Elohim, in God’s image, Rabbi Levi quotes God as saying to the Jewish people: “My children, as I am separate, so you be separate; as I am holy, so you be holy.”2

 

Ultimately, our “job” as clergy is to meet our congregants, friends, family, and relatives, and others, at whatever level of “Holiness” they are in.  When we assist others in “perpetuating the values and learning of our ancient heritage,” which include ma’asim tovim, tzedakah, justice, levels of observance of Shabbat, and supporting our Jewish community, we help move towards Holiness.  As we travel in time towards Shavu’ot, may we all warrant being Holy!

 

1         Parsha In Pink, Rebbetzin Mindy Bodner-Lankry, pg. 135

2         The Everyday Torah, Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, pg. 190