There’s a lot of burning this week. As I read Torah, I find myself trying to interpret things by today’s standards and understanding. I think sometimes it works for me, and sometimes not so much.
Aharei Mot: after the death (this portion comes after the death of Aaron’s sons who displeased God and were killed)
Kedoshim: holy ones
This week I see the beginning of Yom Kippur, yearly atonement for sins. I like the part where Aaron presses the sins of Israel onto the head of a goat then sets the goat free in the desert. Maybe I can find a neighbor cat to use in the same way…perhaps the one that thinks my vegetable garden is her litter box. I’ll call her the scapecat. There’s talk about slaughtering animals and bringing them to the Tent of Meeting to be sacrificed–I wonder if this is the beginning of animal slaughter requiring blessing as part of kashrut. And we can’t eat fat (that must be burned for God). We can’t eat blood–maybe because that is part of the sacrifice–but I don’t think so. It’s spelled out pretty specifically several times that we are not to eat blood or we will be cut off from the community. Yuk. Blood sounds kind of gross as a meal anyway. According to the portion, the soul of the animal lives in its blood. Interesting thought.
Then the portion goes on and on about who can have sex with whom. Actually whose nakedness one can uncover. And because of the way this is written, it applies to the men of the community. In two different places, and I think two different voices, the portion says that (first) a man cannot lie with a man as he would a woman because it is an abomination and he will be cut off from his people. Then (second) it says that a man who lies with a man as he would a woman will be put to death. As will a child who curses his mother or father. As will an adulterer.
But we don’t kill any of these people. And often we don’t punish them (I’m thinking in terms of the adulterers and the smart alecky kids). Times have changed. Once upon a time reproduction was what allowed the Jews to survive in a world that lived differently. Reproduction and the teaching of Jewish ideals grew Judaism and allowed it to survive. That’s not what keeps Judaism alive anymore. What allows Judaism, or any religion, to survive (except possibly the Catholics who don’t seem to evolve very quickly) and prosper is changing with the times. We don’t have to have babies to survive. We have to be a relevant religion to survive. Relevant to the times, welcoming of the times. Once upon a time animal sacrifice was required. That is no longer relevant. Persecuting homosexuality is no longer relevant any more than is persecuting couples who choose to remain childless.
That’s how I understand this, in today’s terms at least. Fundamentally speaking (and I am making a specific comment on “fundamentalism”), this portion teaches us to treat the stranger as ourselves. That is an ideal for all times. Don’t judge me unless you’ve walked a mile in my shoes.