May. 4th, 2016

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Parashat Acharei Mot

This week’s parsha is Parshat Acharei Mot. Parshat Acharei Mot talks about many different services of Yom Kippur, one of which is the Ketores (incense offering). This service is done in the Holy of Holies, which the Kohen Gadol is only allowed to enter once a year on Yom Kippur.  The Kohen Gadol must put the Ketores on fire pan inside of Holy of Holies.
The smoke should go straight up, and then fill the entire room. That would mean that Kohen Gadol had done everything right, he will not die, and atonement for entire people had been granted.
However, there is a big machlokes (disagreement) between the sages and the Sadducees (sect of a Jews who rejected oral Torah and become extinct sometime after the destruction of Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE ).
The sages of Talmud state, that according to oral tradition, the Ketores must be put on the fire pan inside the Holy of Holies. But the Sadducees, who reject oral tradition and interpret the law only based on text, mistakenly say that the Ketores must be lit outside the Holy of Holies and then brought inside.
What does this seemingly very technical argument really mean?
The Sages teach us: A person must light the fire in his heart first, before he tries to influence others. A person cannot teach others if he is not fired up, even if he believes in what he is teaching. He cannot make others excited about it if he, himself, is not excited about it. When a person tries to inspire others, while his heart is not in it, when he wants to "fix" other first and only after that to apply his own teachings to himself, he is, in other words, trying to bring a “fire from outside inside”.
And this is not the teachings of our sages.
The Sadducees, and other Jewish groups, who came after them, who reject some parts of the Torah, try to bring innovations and “corrections” to the Torah from the outside world. Instead of making Torah their way of life, they try to change it with the outside world’s temporal values and ideas. This is like lighting the fire from outside of the Holy of Holies and bringing it in the Sanctuaries of Israel.
We must choose – do we want to go with the Torah that has been with us for over three thousand years, or do we want to change the Torah to a way that is more convenient for us and the ever changing world?


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