Getting to the essence

Achrei Mot-Kedoshim (Leviticus 16 :1 – 20:27)

(note: this year these two parashiot are read on consecutive Shabbatot, though they usually are combined and read on one Shabbat.

“Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities and transgressions of the Israelites, whatever their sins, putting them on the head of the goat; and it shall be sent off to the wilderness through a designated man. And thus the goat shall carry on it all their iniquities to an inaccessible region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness.” (Leviticus 16: 21-22)


6 words:     Can Scapegoat liberate community’s wrong-doings?! Wilderness.

“Say to them further: If anyone of the House of Israel or of the strangers who reside among them offers a burnt offering or a sacrifice and does not bring it to the tent of meeting to offer it to the LORD, that person shall be cut off from his people.” (Leviticus 17:8-9)


6 words:     Actions. Result. Excommunication. Spiritual? Physical? Communal?  

NOTE: “person shall be cut off from his people” – this type of punishment which separates an individual from the community is known as kareit.

How would we interpret such a ruling in our society today, which places so much value on individual freedom? On one hand, perhaps this harsh approach unified the people. Later, in the earliest centuries, the rabbis taught the following as a fundamental ethical principle: “Do not separate yourself from the community.” How do people separate themselves today from their cultural, religious and national communities? How does this shape our understanding of the value of community – especially in the contexts of a world where people belong to multiple communities?

“And if any Israelite or any stranger who resides among them hunts down an animal or a bird that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. For the life of all flesh – its blood is its life. Therefore I say to the Israelite people: You shall not partake of the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood. Anyone who partakes of it shall be cut off.” (Leviticus 17: 13-14)

ethical eating.jpg

9 words:   Life-blood. Hunt. Kashrut. Vegetarian. Humane. Sustainable. Local. Free Trade.

NOTE: While the rabbis may see vegetarianism as an ideal (from the Garden of Eden), they recognize that human beings crave meat. The rulings around not consuming blood reflect the view that we need to keep these carnivorous cravings in check to remind us of the value of all life.

What set of ethics or factors inform what you choose to or not to eat?

What is your view on hunting for sport? for food?

If eating is viewed as a sacred act and a reflection of our values, what rituals and practices elevate our mindfulness of what and how we eat?

Can one not keep traditional kashrut but adopt practices which take into account not only needless suffering for the animals, but also sustainability, humane practices for workers and care for the earth?

Why does the Torah teach us to recite a blessing of gratitude before and after eating?

Rosh Chodesh Iyar begins on Sunday, May 8th – Monday, May 9th: Rosh Chodesh Tov!

And to all mothers, living or kept alive through memory, Happy Mother’s Day!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Nina J. Mizrahi, Community Rabbi

4 May 2016/ 26 Nissan 5776


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