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This week is a double portion, Parshiyot Acharei Mot and Kedoshim (Vayikra / Leviticus 16:1-20:27). This week’s Torah portion contains a large number of positive and negative commands. To live in Holiness, a duty to parents, observance of the Shabbat, against idolatry, peace offerings, the gleanings of the harvest left for the poor, no stealing or lying, swearing falsely, defrauding the hireling, laws on the deaf and the blind, respect of persons in judgment, tale-bearing, hatred and uncharitableness, revenge, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Parashat Acharei Mot continues speaking of sexual sin in relation to incest, mother, father, sister, brother, and cousins. The laws of niddah during menstruation, and to not be engaged in bestiality. We are told to not defile ourselves by these things because it is for this reason the nations were being cast out because they became defiled by them (18:24). It is interesting, based upon this text, the Lord states that the nations were cast out of the Promised Land, and the other nations are perishing because they too became defiled by all of these things. If we consider the context, The way this text is written suggests these commands were binding prior to the giving of the Torah at Sinai suggesting that all of mankind is obligated to obey these moral laws. In addition, Parashat Kedoshim speaks of the laws for harvest, to leave the corners of the field for the gleanings, and to not steal or deal falsely with one another (19:11). Parashat Kedoshim also speaks of entering the land and planting kinds of trees and allowing three years before harvesting the fruit. The Scriptures go on to say, 19:9 ‘You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together. (NASB). We also read in Devarim / Deuteronomy 22:9 a similar text which states, 22:9 You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, or all the produce of the seed which you have sown and the increase of the vineyard will become defiled. (NASB) These verses seem strange and archaic with the idea of mixing threads and planting two kinds of seed in the vineyard. Why would the Lord command His people to not do these things? When we consider the rabbinic literature, according to Rambam’s Guide for the Perplexed, Part 3, 37:10, the idea of mixing different kinds of plants in the grain fields was connected to an ancient occult practice by the nations. The occult practice involved witchcraft, sexual immorality, and the planting of trees, and is the way the nations are described in their unrighteousness. The Lord speaks to us saying, 20:22 ‘You are therefore to keep all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them, so that the land to which I am bringing you to live will not spew you out. 20:23 ‘Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I will drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them. (NASB) These scriptures describe how the iniquity of the people is visited upon the land itself which is said to “Vomit” out her inhabitants. The Scriptures this week reveal to us the Torah was already established by God, it was previously in existence from since the beginning of time and hence the standard, prohibiting all the horrible crimes that are enumerated above. These things are binding upon all of God’s creation (all of mankind). The Torah states that these laws were obligatory upon the Canaanites as well as the other nations, and were already in legal binding force before the Torah was given at Sinai. Let’s discuss this further in this week’s Torah portion.

 

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