Parashat Achrei Mot (After the death)
Kedoshim (Holy ones)
Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:1-18:40 & 19:1-20:27
Haftarah: Amos 9:7-15 (Ashkenazi Jews) & Ezekiel 22:1-16 (Sephardi Jews)
In the end days, God’s city Jerusalem will experience His judgment. We read in Zechariah 14:1-2:
Behold, a day is coming for the LORD when the spoils taken from you will be divided among you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be taken, the houses plundered, the women raped, and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be eliminated from the city.
Why would God judge His city? I personally believe it is meant to cleanse the city since it has - and is still - defiling His Holy Name.
I usually begin commentaries with the Parashah, but this week, I am starting with the Haftarah because it clarifies what happens when God’s instructions are ignored. There are two different Haftarah readings depending on which ethnic Jewish background one comes from. The first is from Ezekiel 22:1-16and is directly connected to Jerusalem defiling God:
Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “And you, son of man, will you judge, will you judge the bloody city? Then inform her of all her abominations. And you shall say, ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: “A city shedding blood in her midst, so that her time is coming; and a city that makes idols, contrary to her own good, for defilement! You have become guilty by the blood which you have shed, and you have become defiled by your idols which you have made. So you have brought your days closer and have come to your years; therefore I have made you a disgrace to the nations, and an object of mocking to all the lands. Those who are near and those who are far from you will make fun of you, you of ill repute, full of turmoil.
“Behold, the rulers of Israel, each according to his power, have been among you for the purpose of shedding blood.They have treated father and mother with contempt among you. They have oppressed the stranger in your midst; they have oppressed the orphan and the widow among you. You have despised My holy things and profaned My Sabbaths.Slanderous men have been among you for the purpose of shedding blood, and among you they have eaten at the mountain shrines. In your midst they have committed outrageous sin. Among you they have uncovered their fathers’ nakedness; among you they have abused her who was unclean in her menstruation. And one has committed abomination with his neighbor’s wife, another has outrageously defiled his daughter-in-law, and another among you has sexually abused his sister, his father’s daughter. Among you they have taken bribes to shed blood; you have taken interest, you have injured your neighbors by oppression, and you have forgotten Me,” declares the Lord GOD.
“Behold, then, I strike with My hand your profit which you have made and the bloodshed which is among you. Can your heart endure, or can your hands be strong for the days that I will deal with you? I, the LORD, have spoken and will act. And I will scatter you among the nations and disperse you among the lands, and I will eliminate your uncleanness from you. Then you will defile yourself in the sight of the nations, and you will know that I am the LORD. ”
There is a direct connection between these difficult words andthe reading from the Parashah, which commands the children of Israel to live holy, sacred lives. How were they to do this? Byfollowing the Lord’s precepts as we see in Leviticus 19:1-2:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
We then read specific commands such as:
Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep My Sabbaths.
When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.
These are just two of the commandments that have been disobeyed in Jerusalem, historically and to this day.
But judgment is not the end of the story! The reality is thatdespite God’s promised judgment, there will also be redemption. Judgment will cleanse Jerusalem to prepare it for His second coming, which will ultimately reveal the new Jerusalem.
One of the most amazing and encouraging aspects of God is His grace. When I read His requirements and standards to live holy and sacred lives, I can see why Jerusalem, and by extension, all of us, miss the mark. While there are consequences to sin, there is also an abundance of grace to restore.
And indeed, we see this modeled throughout Israel’s history.Due to Jerusalem’s disobedience, its children were scattered, but God has been abundantly gracious to us. We can see what the prophet Amos wrote coming to fruition in the land of Israel today:
I will also restore the fortunes of My people Israel, and they will rebuild the desolated cities and live in them; They will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit. I will also plant them on their land, and they will not be uprooted again from their landwhich I have given them,” Says the LORD your God.
I personally look forward to God’s ultimate restoration of Jerusalem, both spiritually and physically!
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