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Parshat Aharei Mot


Following the death of Aaron's sons "who died when they drew too close to the presence of the Lord,"

G-d defines how the High Priest should approach Him on the most sacred day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, "...the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month...". Aaron, who normally "'may not come at will into the Shrine behind the curtain in front of the cover that is upon the ark, let he die; for I appear in the cloud over the cover...'" is only allowed inside the Holy of Holies on this day. Dressed completely in white linen with a white turban on his head (see above), he brings a bull and a ram to offer for his own sins and two goats, "'one marked for the Lord and the other marked for Azazel (the scapegoat)'", that will represent the transgressions of the Israelites. He will use the animals' blood to cleanse the sanctuary.

As for the people, "'This shall be to you a law for all time: (on that day) you shall practice self-denial; and you shall do no manner of work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you. For on this day expiation shall be made for you to purify you of all your sins.'"

What follows this passage about purifying the Sanctuary is the sexual version of the old Glamour magazine fashion "Don'ts". Just a sampling:

"Do not uncover the nakedness of your father's sister; she is your father's flesh.

Do not uncover the nakedness of your mother's sister; for she is your mother's flesh.

Do not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter; nor shall you marry her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter and uncover her nakedness: they are kindred; it is depravity."

Shabbat Mom is no Torah scholar, but she marvels at the messaging: these acts would defile our personal sanctuaries, our bodies, made holy by our very own sparks of Divinity, our souls.

And yet.

The most controversial prohibition (that Shabbat Mom will not repeat here) is the one against homosexuality that has had far-reaching and painful impact in Jewish life and ritual. The custom in Shabbat Mom's unaffiliated non-Orthodox shul is to whisper rather than chant this line aloud. For Shabbat Mom that messaging is equally powerful: Since the Torah is Divinely inspired, we cannot discard it. By whispering, we acknowledge His word but reject the social mores of the times in which men interpreted and wrote it down.

May the memory of Leah ben Ruben, Lori Gilbert-Kaye, be for a blessing and may all those who were injured in the Poway shooting last week be healed in body and soul. As requested by the heroic Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, may all our sanctuaries be filled to capacity this Shabbat as a show of Jewish strength, unity, hope, and joy!

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Shabbat Shalom!