Acharei Mot-Kedoshim – “After the Death”-“Holy Ones”

Our parasha this week is another double portion which means there are two parashas combined into one. They are entitled Acharei Mot, meaning “After the Death” and Kedoshim translated “Holy Ones”. They cover Leviticus 16-20.

The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur is instituted here in chapter 16. This is the most solemn, significant and holy day of the year in Israel’s calendar. After Adonai put Nadab and Abihu to death for the offense of offering strange fire, He instructed Moses to tell Aaron that he is to only enter the Holy of Holies once each year.

It will be on this day that Aaron the High Priest will make atonement for the collective sins of Israel.

God was very specific about the manner and number of sacrifices and the preparation rituals that the High Priest would have to make before entering into the Most Holy Place and into the presence of God Himself. Two goats were to be chosen. Lots would be cast as to which one would be offered as a sacrifice at the Temple by the High Priest, and which would be the scapegoat, or the one to be sent out into the wilderness. This transference of sin from someone guilty to something innocent foreshadowed the sacrifice of our Savior Yeshua when He, the Innocent One, who knew no sin, took our sins upon Himself and took the punishment that we deserved.

Chapter 17 contains strict prohibitions against eating blood or offering it in any manner other than within God’s stated guidelines. The life of a living being is in the blood, and in God’s economy blood is a precious thing. Blood caries life-sustaining elements to every part of the body; therefore it represents the very essence of life. Verse 11 states, “The life of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” Thus the shedding of blood represents the taking of life. We see this throughout the New Testament where references to the shedding of the blood of Messiah Yeshua speak of His death.

Also, in verses 1 through 9, the Lord warns against sacrificing anywhere other than at the Tabernacle of Meeting. The penalty for transgressing this command would be that person being cut off from Israel – put to death.

Chapters 18-20 contain prohibitions regarding sexual morality. The religious practices of the nations that surrounded Israel at that time often included deviant sexual activity and even child-sacrifice as part of their worship. But Adonai called the Jewish people to be holy, and forbade them from imitating the Canaanites’ appalling practices.

The phrase “I am the Lord your God” is repeated many times in these chapters,  emphasizing the uniqueness of the One True and Living God, who chose Israel for Himself. Adonai calls His people to reject all false gods and all false forms of worship.

Special blessings were promised to the people of Israel on the condition of their obedience to God’s Law. These promises came to pass in particular eras of the history of the Jewish people; such as the national prosperity that they enjoyed when faithfulness prevailed among them. Obedience to God’s laws consistently leads to blessing. In fact, this principle of adhering to God’s laws is one of the basic themes of the Bible. Adonai puts before us a blessing and a curse, and it is up to us whether to obey Him and receive a blessing, or disobey and receive a curse.

Chapters 19 and 20 are part of parasha Kedoshim  and, appropriately, focus on holiness. God commands His people Israel to be Holy because He Himself is Holy and we are to be like Him. The statement “I, the lord your God, am Holy” is arguably the central theme running through the Book of Leviticus. Israel had been called to be a nation set apart, and the perfectly holy character of Adonai was the model after which they were to live. By extension, as believers in the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, we as Christians and Messianic Jews should make it our goal to imitate Him as well.

The first 37 verses of chapter 19 give us an idea of practical applications of holy conduct in society. We are to provide for the poor and the stranger. We can do this by giving money to homeless people or charities. The nation of Israel was to provide for the poor and the stranger, by leaving the edges of their fields unharvested and the fallen fruit of their vineyards uncollected, so that the needy could come and gather food.

Other examples include not insulting a deaf person or maliciously placing a stumbling block before the blind. Or showing respect for the elderly. We are to be fair in judgment and in commerce and not to bear grudges.

God goes on to give Israel what Yeshua would later call one of the two greatest commandments. He tells them to love their neighbors as themselves and to love the strangers in their midst, since the Jewish people were strangers themselves in the land of Egypt.

This section also includes the command that we should have reverence for our parents, for God, and how we should faithfully observe the Sabbath. All of these laws that Israel was to observe were so that they might be holy to God, who had set them apart from other nations, freed them from slavery in Egypt, and chosen them to be His people.

The parasha concludes with a description of several categories of forbidden mixtures. When the Lord created the Earth, he put boundaries in place for various things. Nature understands that it is not to cross God ordained boundries and as His creation, we too should always respect the Lord’s boundries and never cross them or blur the line.

In this last portion of scripture, God commands that crossbreeding animals and plants is prohibited, as is the wearing of mixtures of wool and linen in one garment. The Israelis were also forbidden to consume fruit from the first three years’ growth of a newly-planted tree.

There is a listing of the punishments to be meted out against people who engage in the various forbidden sexual relationships. It also concludes with the commandment, once again, that the Jewish people be a holy and distinct people from amongst the nations of the world.

This theme of holiness is woven throughout the book of Leviticus. Adonai admonishes us to be holy, because without holiness we will never see Him. Jesus was the ultimate example of holiness on this Earth and we as His followers who have had His holiness imparted to us, should be emulating Him by living Holy everyday lives.

During the time of the Tabernacle, sacrifices for the entire nation were done every year. But when Yeshua went to the cross, because He was sinless and blameless, He was the only One who could stand in our place and be an acceptable sacrifice on our behalf. His was an infinitely better sacrifice than that of bulls and goats, as His offering of Himself never again needs to be repeated.

When Yeshua said from the cross “It is finished”, He meant it. There is nothing further that we can add to salvation as it was all perfectly completed in Yeshua. All you have to do is transfer your loyalty to Messiah Yeshua, and trust in His completed work of atonement. He will then empower you to live a holy life and enable you to be presented to the Father without spot or blemish. In the words of Jude, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever.” Amen.