Questions and Concepts for Acharei Mot and Kedoshim
(Leviticus 16:1-20:27)
  1. What is meant by being "holy?" It goes beyond "not breaking the commandments." In fact, it is taught that it is possible for someone to live a very "un-holy" life without really breaking any of the commandments. For example, if someone sat home every day and stuffed themselves with kosher food, they are not technically breaking a commandment. However, is that he lifestyle the Torah points us to? Is this "holy" behavior? No. Rather, "holy" means to take the physical aspects of life and elevate them in order to achieve a harmony with the spiritual aspect.
  2. In Leviticus 19:2-3 God says, "You shall be holy since I, God, Your Lord, am holy. Every man should revere his mother and his father and you should observe my Sabbaths. I am God, your Lord". Why does God command us to be holy and then list dozens of commandments in order to achieve this goal? What us He telling us about being a "hearer and doer" of the Torah?
  3. The first of the commands God gives, after telling us to "be holy," is to revere our parents. In what ways is recognition and respect of authority an important first step in the path of holiness? Conversely, how does understanding and practice of being holy enable us to appreciate our existence and therefore the parents who gave us this life?
  4. How does this honoring of our parents enable us to properly follow the subsequent command in this section -- honoring the Sabbath?
  5. To be "holy" means to be "set apart." The subsequent commands in this Parsha, that help us to be "holy," include such "down to earth" things as; not cheating, paying workers on time, cursing the deaf, not gossiping, correctly rebuking someone, not bearing grudges, and loving neighbor as oneself. How do these commands, which touch on many aspects of day to day life, help us become "set apart" for God? How does being involved with everyday things, in the way that God wants reveal the holiness which He has placed in them, and make us holy?
  6. The Ten Commandments are prominently included in this list, mingled in among others. What does this tell us about the relationship between all the commands of the Torah?
  7. This Parsha also teaches about Yom Kippur. During this ceremony two goats of equal size and appearance are taken. One goes "toward God" and the other "away from God." How does this reflect on the choices we face regarding the path of holiness prescribed in this same Parsha?
  8. This Parsha also speaks of marriage laws, including complete physical separation during and immediately after the wife's menstrual cycle. In what wats do these commands sanctify and contribute to the harmony of a marriage?
  9. This Parsha contains the command: "You shall rebuke your neighbor" (Leviticus 19:17). This may sound like an obligation to point out others' wrongdoings, however the original Hebrew says: "You should give TOCH'ACHA to your neighbor." Toch'acha is from the same word as Hoch'acha, and means "proof." What does this teach us about how to change the behavior of others? (See Proverbs 9:8) How might this command relate to the one presented right before it, "Don't stand by your brother's blood" (Leviticus 19:16)?
  10. Consider these concepts:
    What lesson can we learn from a law that appears to apply only to the High Priest? Kedoshim, the second Torah portion read on this Sabbath, begins with God telling the Jewish people that they are to be holy, "for I, God their Lord, am Holy." The verse informs us that a Jew’s sanctity can be of such magnitude that it comes to resemble God’s. So it is that, before giving the Torah, God tells the Jewish people: "You shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." In other words, every Jew has the capacity to reach the lofty level of a "High Priest," with the same measure of love for God as Aharon and his sons displayed. ... Man’s potential for sanctification is such that it even bears a degree of comparison to God’s. The very end of Kedoshim (20: 22-26) explains the concept of holiness as the means for being separate from the other nations. Three basic formats for holiness exist: Time, place, and person. The ultimate integration of the three is found in the person of the High Priest entering the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. ... Because a person possesses an "actual part of God" within his being, it is possible for him to appreciate — and express — holiness on all levels, even within the confines of material existence. Moreover, this inner potential drives every individual to continually seek higher rungs of holiness. Just as God is unbounded, transcending all levels, so too, every person can ascend to ever-more-refined and elevated levels.