Adhere Mot (5776)

Drash Cards for Acherei Mot (5776)

By Marc Mangel

  • Susan and I are hosting the Kiddush in honor of her mother. I decided to try to give a drash that her mother would appreciate to further honor her mother.
  • I want to focus on Ch 18, v 5 (Read in Hebrew, then English) and ask two questions.
  • First, what does it mean “shall live by them”. Second, why is there the transition from the second person (you keep my commandments) to the third person.
  • Answer to the first is that we don’t know. Many different interpretations
  • JPS: “he shall live by them”
  • Buber-Rosenzweig: “he shall live through them”
  • King James: “he shall live in them” implying, according to Nehama Leibowitz that life will be the reward of following the commandments
  • Albo in Sefer Ha-ikkarim: this applies to the next world, we accrue credit here for eternal life
  • Nachmanides: “live by them” ensures a peaceful and orderly society
  • Other chazal (not named by Nehama): “Man should observe the Divine precepts on the condition that he can live with them but if their observance entails a danger to life, we should not go through with them”
  • Nehama’s summary: We are asked to keep Divine law in order to attain a particular standard of living, in both the physical and spiritual sense.
  • Ther Rebbe: “live by them” means “to imbue them with life-force” — not only do God’s commandments enhance our lives, by observing them we bring them to life.
  • Example: tefilin cannot accomplish its purpose until a man wears them. Candles are just wax and wick until we light them on Shabbat.
  • The Rebbe also says that in order to enliven the commandments, we must be alive ourselves: healthy, strong, enthusiastic, and optimistic.
  • As our parents age and as we care for them, we often forget the time when they were healthy, strong, enthusiastic, and optimistic. But this passage reminds us to do so.
  • Here’s the story of when I first met Susan’s mom.  I arrived and sat on the couch. Her mom, about 5 ft tall and 100 lbs marched down the hallway, stopped about 6 inches from the couch and stuck out her hand. I rose to meet her and she craned her head and said “My you are tall aren’t you.
  • And one more. When we spent sabbatical in Oxford in 1988, her mom came to visit us and almost immediately said to Susan “You and I have to go to Paris”. And they did  — it was the first and only time Susan went to Paris, thanks to her mother’s enthusiasm and strength.
  • Now I want to turn to the second question – why move to the third person
  • Recall that all humans share the seven Noahide laws:
  • Do not deny God.
  • Do not blaspheme God.
  • Do not murder.
  • Do not engage in illicit sexual relations.
  • Do not steal.
  • Do not eat of a live animal.
  • Establish courts/legal system to ensure obedience to the law.

[According to the Talmud, the rabbis agree that the seven laws were given to the sons of Noah. Six of the seven laws are derived from passages in Beresheit with the seventh being the establishing of courts.]

  • Sifra – which is the halachic midrash on VaYikra – quotes R. Jeremiah that a non-Jew who keeps the Torah is to be regarded as equal to the high Priest and it is for this reason that the shift is to the third person – to get everyone in the world to expand on the Noahide laws, even if they do not fully observe the Torah, say to observe the additional laws between people, as a means of elevating their souls and our society
  • And that’s my Mother’s Day drash