Thursday, April 18, 2013

Death and Holiness Along Life's Path

More than most, our combined portions this week suggest to a question. Where are we going on this journey through life? What is the goal? And when it comes to religious belief, what is the religious meant to offer? Is religious meaning found in simply doing religious things, be they praying or giving charity? Is the reward in the deed itself? No doubt that is part of it, but I don't think it can be all. It certainly can't be all from the perspective of our first half our reading this week, Acharei Mot which picks up after the deaths of Aaron's two sons is a big lesson in the action being more than the sum of its parts. For if the action was its own reward, then why not let Nadav and Avihu do what they wanted if it was meaningful to them? There must be a greater something out there, whatever that might be, to which the two doomed priests' actions didn't measure up. And I think the second portion suggests that. Kedoshim - "Holiness" offers us the lesson that through right behavior and belief, thought and action, we can attain to the life of holiness, which we are famously told, is the state in which God exists. And what is that state? It seems, from the portion, to be a state of higher awareness for those around us - the world and its creatures. But more than this, it is also a wide-ranging system of how to properly acknowledge and interact with that world. When we want for a purpose, when we want to know "why", at least the path towards an answer is suggested by the lessons of this week's Torah reading. I invite your thoughts on where else the path leads and what we might find along it. Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Benson

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