Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Acharei Mot II
We all know the line, “The devil is in the details.” Sometimes the lessons are obvious – sometimes less so. The rabbis teach us that the most profound teachings come from the most subtle ambiguities. As Moses shares the rules on Yom Kippur and eating meat, we find the following (17:15), “Any person, whether citizen or stranger, who eats what has died or has been torn by beasts shall wash those clothes, bathe in water, remain impure until evening—and shall then be pure.”
The over-arching message is that eating meat that has already died is not a good thing. If one eats this, they are unclean until they clean up. If they refuse to clean up, then they stay in trouble.
That said, there are at least two other lessons we can glean:
1. The ‘prohibition” is not absolute. If someone is hungry, the system provides compassion. By extension, the rules are important, but not the most important of all things to consider. Rules begin conversations, but we acknowledge that there can be circumstances when we need to think beyond the simple statement of what is and is not good.
2. The rule applies to everyone – the citizen (member of the community) and the stranger. When we think about the conversations revolving around disparate law enforcement, Torah provides us a stark reminder that there is no “favored status” in how to live with communal rules. Whatever one’s background, one faces the same path to cleanliness and/or the same punishment for refusing to cleanse.
In a world wherein we keep trying to separate from each other, these not-so-hidden truths should have a monumental impact on how we see each other. We wear religious labels to separate us from “all the others”. It is not enough for us to say that we are faithful and then go about praying and working with a community of like-minded or like-visioning people.
For whatever reason, historically, we find the need to use labels for who we are and what we believe. While it can be helpful to know who affiliates as like-minded members of one community, the labels intentionally distinguish and set us apart from those wearing other labels. Over time, people use this separation as a foundation for creating a hierarchy of who matters more than others and what rules are sacred or dismissible. Yet, the sacred texts to which so many point says here (and in many other places) that ultimately, we are all together and rules are situational. No one says that they don’t exist. No one says that they won’t hold differing values in differing situations or communities. We do, however, learn that we are not better or worse; more or less, than anyone else.
Good thing to think about on Shabbat, as we watch people destroy each other just for being different. What do we do with this understanding? Elie Wiesel taught us, “Silence is complicity.” If we get the message not so hidden in the Torah piece I provided, share it. If we stay silent, we perpetuate the madness.