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Parsha Notes: Drasha for Aharei Moth/Q’doshim/Emor.

April 27, 2014

The Chiastic structure of Aharei Moth/Q’doshim and the beginning of Emor:

I. The kohanim have a special responsibility toward the rest of people of Israel. More so for the High Priest. (Leviticus 16)

II. Jewish religious practice is meant to wean the people from the disgusting habits they may acquire from their neighbors. (ibid., 17, 18:1-5)

III. The forbidden relations, by which the Jewish people demonstrate their holiness. The Canaanites deserve to be replaced by Israelites because of their sinning in this regard. (ibid., !8:6-30)

IV. A host of additional commandments, all of which further sanctify the people. (ibid., 19, 20:1-9)

V. The forbidden relations, by which the Jewish people demonstrate their holiness. The Canaanites deserve to be replaced by Israelites because of their sinning in this regard. (ibid., 20:10-24)

VI. Jewish religious practice is meant to wean the people from the disgusting habits they may acquire from their neighbors. (20:25-26)

VII. The kohanim have a special responsibility toward the rest of people of Israel. More so for the High Priest. (ibid., 21, 22:1-25)

From Psalm 34:

מִי-הָאִישׁ, הֶחָפֵץ חַיִּים; אֹהֵב יָמִים, לִרְאוֹת טוֹב.
יד נְצֹר לְשׁוֹנְךָ מֵרָע; וּשְׂפָתֶיךָ, מִדַּבֵּר מִרְמָה.
טו סוּר מֵרָע, וַעֲשֵׂה-טוֹב; בַּקֵּשׁ שָׁלוֹם וְרָדְפֵהוּ.

Who is the man that desires life, and loves days, that he may see good therein?

Guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.

Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The psalmist alludes to the series of parashiyoth starting with Tazria/M’tzora.

Guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit:

This refers to Tazria/M’tzora, which detail the laws of the m’tzora and teach us to avoid evil speech and slander.

Turn away from evil:

This refers to Aharei Moth, which teaches us how to atone for our sins and avoid the wicked ways of our gentile neighbors.

And do good:

This refers to Q’doshim, which details the commandments that make the Jewish people special and therefore holy.

Seek peace and pursue it:

This refers to Emor, which details the special obligations incumbent upon the priests, whom, like Aaron their forebear, are to be lovers of peace and pursuers of peace.

(The last time someone made a drasha like this, someone else thought it would be a good idea to recite Psalm 27 twice every day for seven weeks.)

What does q’doshim tihyu mean?

It is surprising to note that not all of the classic mitzwa counters count q’doshim tihyu as one of the 613, but first some grammar. The word tih-YU is not in the imperative form. The imperative would be he-YU. Tihyu is the second-person plural future tense, although in both Biblical and Modern Hebrew it could be used for the imperative. Taken in light of the following verses: (Leviticus 20:24-26, 21:6 and 13) which use similar language, and considering the parasha immediately preceding it, (18:24-26) the verse is saying that unlike the Canaanites and Egyptians, who have contaminated the land with their sinful ways, the Children of Israel shall become holy by the observance of the commandments that were specifically given to them. This is what our sages had in mind when they set the texts for the blessings and prayers which use the formulas “Who hast sanctified us with His commandments” or “Thou hast sanctified us with Your commandments”. As R’ Schachter says, holiness is not abstract. Nor does it mean that something is superior. Rather, it is a status of greater applicability of God’s commandments. Jews are holy because they have been given more rules, and the priests are still holier because they have even more.

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