Parshat Acharei: Being as different as it takes

The quest for sacredness as the permanent connection with the Creator continues in Acharei signaling to the day in which we are united with Him after we cleanse our consciousness from negative patterns. This is the premise for an atonement directed to fulfill that unity.

“For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall you be clean before the Lord.” (Leviticus 16:30)

Maimonides teaches that “on Yom Kippur, the day itself atones as it is written: ‘For on this day shall atone for you’.” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Return 1:3), and he clearly refers to the particular time when that action takes place.

We have learned already that the revelation of the Torah in Sinai occurs the same day when we commemorate Yom Kippur, making us aware that this is the time in which we are one with our Creator. It also reminds us that before we received the Torah we engaged in a cleansing and purification period of seven weeks to separate our consciousness from its materialistic patterns and attachments in order to become the vessel for God’s ways and attributes.

The Creator asks us to be holy because He is holy and with this we learn that He does not cohabit with anything different from His ways and attributes. All our offerings (traits, thoughts, emotions, desires, passions and instincts) are directed to do what is sacred and holy to honor and celebrate our oneness with Him; and these offerings should not be presented to anything else.

“And they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices unto the satyrs, after whom they go astray. This shall be a statute forever unto them throughout their generations.” (Leviticus 17:7)

This means a permanent, constant and continuous connection with God. The parshah then refers to the divine prohibition for Israel not to eat the blood of any living creature.

“Because the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the life.” (17:11)

In our commentary on Metzorah we said that water also represents life and the renewal of life. Thus the Torah remarks to cleanse ourselves with living waters in order to remove impurities derived from transgressions against God’s ways and our fellow man. In a deeper meaning, God’s love sustains life and blood represents both life and what sustains it. Hence the action of eating blood defiles our own life and consciousness.

In this sense blood represents a divine essence whose purpose is to consecrate life and not to desecrate or diminish it with lower impulses or negative desires. Life is to be elevated, enhanced and consecrated to what it is by essence: Love as the material manifestation of God’s love.

That is our purpose in life and in this world: to reveal God’s love as the sustaining essence of life.

With this we learn that we must not abuse, misuse, damage or destroy life and its source, God’s love. With living waters we cleanse our transgressions against life, including eating blood.

“(…) he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening; then shall he be clean. But if he wash them not, nor bathe his flesh, then he shall bear his iniquity.” (17:15-16)

In this context the unwillingness to return to God’s ways and attributes keeps us separated from Him. The cleansing process continues in this parshah emphasizing what the Creator wants from us in order to be permanently connected with Him. He wants us to be different from the “nations” and their ways.

Our sages explain that the people of Israel inherit the Promised Land in order to be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests, where the priesthood is the constant awareness of our connection to God. Becoming such nation requires leaving behind the ways of Egypt and the Canaanite nations that represent lower and negative thoughts, emotions, passions and instincts.

“And God told Moses: ‘speak to the children of Israel and tell them: I am the Lord your God! After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein you dwelt, shall you not do; and after the doings of the land of Canaan, where I bring you, shall you not do; neither shall you walk in their statutes. My ordinances shall you do, and My statutes shall you keep, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep My statutes, and My ordinances, which if a man do, he shall live by them: I am the Lord’.” (18:1-5)

The constant awareness the Torah demands from us is what makes us different from the rest of the nations and gives us our true identity as the chosen people. This means being aware of God’s love as the cause and effect of all Creation, and also aware that our mission is to reveal this eternal truth.

We are destined to reveal love concealed in the darkness of the illusions of the material world. We fulfill this destiny when we follow God’s ways and attributes, and live by them, “which if a man does, he shall live by them”.

Our sages point out “to live by them” suggesting not to die by them. One of the meanings of this is to be aware that we live by and for life’s sacredness. This sacredness consists in doing the Creator’s ways and attributes, and not what denigrates the holiness of life’s.

The parshah enumerates what the other Canaanite nations did related to sexual relations that are prohibited for the children of Israel, in order to be close to the Creator.

“(…) because all these abominations have the men of the land done, that were before you, and the land is defiled; that the land does not vomit you out also, when you defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. Therefore, shall you keep My charge, that you not do any of these abominable customs, which were done before you, and that you defile not yourselves therein: I am the Lord your God.” (18:27-28, 30)

Being different from the “nations” is the destiny that our God wants for Israel. As we have said, the difference lies in being always aware of God’s love in all levels of consciousness, and living according to His commandments, and His ways and attributes.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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