Acharei Mot/Kedoshim - April 24, 2021

Torah Portion:
Acharei Mot/Kedoshim - April 24, 2021

Torah: Leviticus 16:1-20:27
Haftarah: Amos 9:7-15

Devotional by Matt Gile:
Teach Me Torah While Standing on One Foot
Wouldn’t that be a sight, watching Rabbi Matt preach while standing on one foot?

Think you could do it?

Well, we know of at least one person in history who was up to the challenge—Rabbi Hillel, a first-century Rabbi in Jerusalem. The story goes that a Gentile seeking to convert to Judaism came and asked Hillel to teach him the entire Torah, while standing on one foot. The old rabbi replied, “That which you find hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary. Now go and study.”

A few years after Hillel, another first-century rabbi—Yeshua of Nazareth—gave a similar response when challenged. According to the Gospel of Matthew, one of the Pharisees asked what the greatest commandment is in all of Torah. Yeshua responded, “You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The entire Torah and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:34-40). Taken together, these two principles—love God and love each other—form the cornerstone of our faith. The latter comes directly from our Torah portion for today.

This week’s portion is called Kedoshim, which translates to holy ones, and it’s bookended with a call from God that the Israelites were to be holy, “for I, Adonai your God, am holy.” (Lev. 19:1, 20:26). Likewise, as followers of Yeshua who seek to be more like Him, we too are called to be kadosh (to be holy, to be “completely other”-i.e. different from the world around us).

In many ways the commandments found within are an elaboration of the Ten Words in Exodus 20, and nestled here in Leviticus 19:18 is the commandment that both Hillel and Yeshua identified as central to the entire Torah—love your neighbor as yourself.

This is essentially our why statement. It’s why we do what we do. It’s why we don’t steal from one another or lie and slander each other, regardless of our justification. It’s why we honor our elders. It’s why we care for the poor among us. It’s what Yeshua meant when he said that all of Torah and the Prophets hang on these statements. We don’t follow these commandments out of a sense of legalistic obligation but instead because we realize that He first loved us (see Jn. 15:12)! As we understand this, He will show us how to live lives that are not only different from the world around us but also draw others to Him!

Sometimes we may feel as if our world has gone mad. It’s now commonplace to seek to define ourselves by declaring what we stand in opposition to (instead of asserting what we actually believe in!). Some elements of society tell us we should scorn others because they don’t look like us; others say that we should be scornful of those wealthier than us. Every day we hear more and more people calling for others to be “cancelled” because of who they voted for, their opinions, or social media posts. In times like these, may we keep these words from Yeshua close to our hearts:

“You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

This is Torah, the rest is commentary. Now go and study. See, that wasn’t so hard now, was it?
(You can put your foot down now.)

We thank You for Your Word and for giving us guidance and balance especially during these  turbulent times. Although You have called us to be holy as You are holy, we recognize that we have not always lived up to this calling. Too often we’ve allowed ourselves to follow our own whims or the passions of the moment, and we have not always loved our neighbors as ourselves. Lord, as we go through this next week, show us ways that we can better serve and love one another as You have loved us.
In Yeshua’s name, amen.

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