This Week’s Torah Portion

Torah Portion from Briteinu —

Acharei Mot / Kedoshim
אחרי מות / קדושים 

Leviticus 16:1– 20:27

Parashat Aharei Mot is one of the pivotal portions of the Torah. The main section is chapters 16 and 17, which discuss Yom Kippur and the place of blood in the atonement process. Knowing the context of chapter 16 is critical to fully understanding the teaching concerning Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Leviticus 16:1 links this chapter with Leviticus 10 and the sudden judgemental deaths of Nadav and Avihu. Moshe reminds us that it was because Nadav and Avihu “approached before the Lord” in a sinful way that they died. To avoid future problems, Moshe gives clear and specific instructions to Aaron about how to come near the Lord, so he could do so without losing his own life.

However, Leviticus 16 is also connected with chapters 11–15, the instructions about tam’ei and tahor. Accordingly, we read in Leviticus 16:16 that the High Priest will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the Tent of Meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

When we see the word “uncleanness,” we know that we are in the realm of tahor and tam’ei.

In addition to the contextual connection with the content of the previous chapters, Leviticus chapter 16 offers new revelation. Here we see the Divine institution of a single day specifically set aside to make atonement for the entire house of Israel, Yom Kippur. As we examine the teaching about Yom Kippur, let us approach it in this fashion. This outline will take us over into the rest of the parasha:

  1.   The Purposes
  2.  The Person
  3. The Procedure
  4. The Blood
  5.  The Pictures