Sedra of the week: Acharei Mot

Sedra of the week: Acharei Mot

Rabbi Jonny Roodyn looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah

After a break for Passover, we resume our reading of the weekly parsha, with a detailed discussion about Yom Kippur. 

This is confusing, but this year it provides a poignant message. The parsha starts off with the historical context within which it was said, “after the death of the two sons of Aaron”.

This was, without doubt, one of the most traumatic events the Jewish people had experienced thus far in their short history.

Nadav and Avihu, Aaron’s two sons and risings stars in the priesthood, overstepped the boundaries on the day of the Mishnah’s inauguration and were burnt to death by a divine fire.

It would have been totally understandable for Aaron to have gone into retirement, to have focused inwardly to deal with his grief, relinquishing his public role. 

However, “Acharei Mot”, or “after the death”, he is charged with the responsibility of restoring the people to life with the Yom Kippur service.

He is told he can’t enter into the Holy of Holies whenever he wishes. He may only do so when invited, which is namely on Yom Kippur. 

But when he can come, he must. We cannot always feel close to God or understand His ways, but we can try our best to learn positive lessons from tragedies.

This message is most apt in the aftermath of the horrific attack at the Chabad synagogue in Poway. Terror attacks, especially fatal ones, are designed to spread fear and paralyse.

However, the message of Acharei Mot is that we are obligated to respond with a deeper and more enthusiastic commitment to life.

Rabbi Jonny Roodyn is education director of Jewish Futures Trust

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