Acharei Mot - K'doshim - May 6th

 

אחרי מות Acharei Mot

This week there is a double portion of the Parasha, meaning two Torah Portions for one week.

Leviticus 16.1—18.30

Leviticus 16.6, 11, 17, 24: On the day of atonement Aaron made atonement for himself. This points clearly to his own sinfulness. The Messiah will also have a priestly role, but his priesthood will be greater than that of Aaron. He will be able to offer sacrifices for others because he will be perfect. More than that, he will himself be the perfect sacrifice, not needing atonement himself and so able to make atonement for others.

This is fulfilled in Jesus, as is explained in the book of Hebrews: “For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself. Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect for ever.” (Hebrews 7.26-28)

“Messiah has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the Holy Place yearly with blood not his own; for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9.24-26)

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Leviticus 17.11: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life.” Atonement demands the giving of a life, because the life flows in the blood, atonement means blood must be shed unto death. This principle is summed up in Hebrews 9.22: “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

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Haftarah: Ezekiel 22.1-19

קדשים K’doshim

Leviticus 19.1—20.27

Leviticus 19.2: “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.’”

Leviticus 20.7, 22-24, 26: “Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you. . . . You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them. But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the Lord your God, who have separated you from the peoples. . . . You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”

The defining theme of this parashah is the demand for holiness. It is a demand with clear messianic application. What is meant by the word “holy”? we normally think first of all of moral purity, a freedom from sinning. However, this is not its only meaning, perhaps not even its primary meaning. It is no accident that the word appears in this parashah together with the word “separated”; “you shall be holy . . . I have separated you.”

One of the fundamental meanings of “holy” is to be separated from sin and the sinful world, to be different, other. Such holy otherness is the essence of God’s character. It is also an important characteristic of the promised Messiah. “He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth” (Isaiah 53.9). He is “the holy and righteous one” (Acts 3.14), the one “who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5.21); he is “holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners” (Hebrews 7.26). “He appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.” (1 John 3.5).

Just as the nation was commanded in this week’s parashah to be holy (a command that they could not keep), so too those who join themselves to the Messiah are required to live lives separated from the world and sin. “Come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you.” (2 Corinthians 6.17). “As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1.15-16).

However, for those who believe in the Messiah there is an important difference. He himself, the holy Messiah of Israel, has come to make his followers holy by taking their sins on himself. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53.4-6).

He also prayed for those who would believe in him, that they might indeed be holy: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. . . . And for their sake I consecrate [sanctify] myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” (John 17.17, 19-20). And by God’s grace, and because of the perfect atonement in the blood of the Messiah, his prayer was heard: “He is the source of your life in the Messiah Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1.30). “He has now reconciled [you] in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.” (Colossians 1.22).

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Haftarah: (A) Amos 9.7-15; (S) Ezekiel 20.1-20

Amos 9.7-12: “Are you not like the Ethiopians to me, O people of Israel?” says the Lord. “Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir? Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground; except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,” says the Lord. “For lo, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall upon the earth. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, ‘Evil shall not overtake or meet us.’ “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,” says the Lord who does this.

From this passage in the haftarah comes one of the rabbinic names for the Messiah: Bar Nafle. Literally this would be “son of the one who fell,” where the reference is to “the booth of David that is fallen” in verse 11. The Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 96f, has this: “R. Nahman said to R. Isaac: ‘Have you heard when Bar Nafle will come?’ ‘Who is Bar Nafle?’ he asked. ‘Messiah,’ he answered, ‘Do you call Messiah Bar Nafle?’ – ‘Even so,’ he rejoined, ‘as it is written, in that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David ha-nofeleth [that is fallen].’” (Amos 9.11)

This becomes highly significant in Midrash Genesis 88,7 (on Genesis 40.23), because it is connected to the spreading of the knowledge of the God of Israel to all the nations of the world. After enumerating the unexpected deliverance of Joseph, Moses, Ruth, David, and of Israel in the days of Haman, the Midrash continues: “Who could have expected that the Holy One, blessed be He! would raise up the fallen tabernacle of David, as it is said, ‘In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen,’ (and who should have expected) that the whole world should become one congregation? Yet it is said, ‘at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord.’” (Zephaniah 3.9)

It is not surprising, then, that when the first Jewish believers were faced with the question of whether faith in the Messiah was also for the Gentiles, their decision was based in part on this same passage. “After they finished speaking, James replied, ‘Brethren, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, as it is written, “After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up, that the rest of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who has made these things known from of old.”’” (Acts 15.13-18)

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Shabbat Shalom!

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