D’var Torah – April 19, 2013
Acharei Mot – Kedoshim
This week happens to be another double portion, acharei mot (after death) and kedoshim (holiness). Remember, we sometimes have a double portion in order for us to be able to squeeze in the reading of all 54 portions throughout the year. Tonight I will be chanting the opening verses from parshat kedoshim, found on page 798 in your plaut commentary.
Acharei mot, after death. Kedoshim, holiness. Acharei Mot opens up recalling the death of Nadav and Avihu, Aaron’s sons. Then various laws are instructed about Yom Kippur, fasting, blood, and eating meat, my favorite topics. Then, in Kedoshim, we read the Holiness code, various laws that help us to live holy lives – respecting parents, not worshipping idols, judging cases fairly and leaving corners of the fields for the poor. Even in our darkest moments of death, pain and suffering, there is a way for us to live a holy life.
When thinking about these portions in connection to one another, the Israeli song, al kol eileh, all these things, comes to my mind. The song opens up –
Al hadvash ve’al ha’okets Al hamar vehamatok
Al biteynu hatinoket shmor eyli hatov
every bee that brings the honey needs a sting to be complete, and we all must learn to taste the bitter with the sweet.
The chorus goes on to say: bless the sting and bless and honey, bless the bitter and the sweet.
On this Jammin’ for Jerusalem, we are here to celebrate Israeli independence. Israel for being such a young and small country has made many advances in technology and medicine. Israel has the highest per capita of educated people. Israel has a strong army. Israel has influenced our daily lives through the Mediterranean diet, krav maga martial arts, and the ability to text one another throughout the day.
With the sweet comes the bitter…. Israel is surrounded by radicals who vow to wipe Israel off the map, those radicals organize homicide bombings and kidnappings. Those radicals teach hate to their children.
In Israel, Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli independence day is celebrated in connection to Yom Hazikaron, Israeli remembrance day. In just a 48-hour period, the country mourns, celebrates and moves on with life.
I recall living in Israel, hearing the siren on Yom HaZikaron. Everyone stops what they are doing and stands up. If you are in the car, you stop, step out of your car and stand silently, even on the freeway. You stop and stand no matter where you are. The country stands still. Cemeteries across the country are filled with loved ones visiting the grave of a parent, sibling, child or friend.
Yet, when 24 hours have passed from sundown to sundown, the air and mood of the country shifts to one of celebration. People celebrate the state and homeland that we all love so much.
We can’t fully embrace the day of mourning or celebration without the other. We need both the bitter and the sweet. We need to remember those that gave their lives so that we can join together in celebrating our state.
Even though we are here to celebrate Israel, I cannot stand before you without acknowledging the tragic acts of terror in Boston earlier this week. As news of the tragedy flooded our lives and we learned more and more about those killed and injured, I hope that you also saw the sweet and heroic acts that took place. People opened up their homes, restaurants offered food, people ran towards the explosions to help those injured and many, including marathon runners, ran to donate blood in hospitals. These acts of sweetness and hope, these are acts I hope you remember.
Tonight we celebrate the sweet, the greatness of our people and of our homeland. We celebrate the only country in the world that has more trees at the end of the 20th century, than it did at the start of it. We celebrate the country that holds the history of our people. We celebrate our country that is our people’s homeland – our homeland.
As we move on after our celebrating of Israeli independence, I hope that you carry this message in your heart. Every bee that brings the honey needs a sting to be complete. May we find comfort in the balance of sweet and bitter in our own lives. And if we and our world are faced with moments of pure bitter, it is up to us to bring the sweet and holy in. And may we see a day when peace spreads over us and over Jerusalem. Together we say, amen.