Aharey Mot 5763
Posted on March 23, 2011
by Jennifer Krueger
Shalom USY. Acharei Mot is an interesting Parsha filled with many mitzvot. First we learn of laws regarding confession and Yom Kippur and then there is the prohibition against eating blood. The parsha ends with the laws of forbidden relationships. In the middle of all of these laws, we find the verses: “Carry out my laws and safeguard my decrees to follow them: I am Hashem, your G-d. You shall observe my decrees and my laws, which man shall carry out and by which he shall live-I am Hashem.” (Vayikra 18:4-5) It is asked what it means that we should “live by” Hashem’s decrees?
Ramban writes that this refers particularly to the “social commandments” between man and his fellow man. He says that society will only be able to live together peacefully if man can treat others fairly and morally, according to Hashem’s commandments. The Sages explain that to “live by” Hashem’s decrees means that the commandments were given for the sake of life and not death. So, if there is a situation where a commandment could endanger one’s life, such as a person who needs to drive to the hospital on Shabbat, then one should save their life instead of keeping the commandment.
The only exceptions to this are for idolatry, forbidden sexual relationships, and murder. One is supposed to give up their life in order to keep these commandments. The Chiddushei HaRim has a different understanding of what it means to “live by” Hashem’s decrees. He says that this means that we should be enthusiastic about keeping the mitzvot and that the commandments should be our primary source of joy.
I would like to offer my own interpretation of what it means to “live by” Hashem’s commandments. Judaism has many aspects to it. It is a religion, a nation, a culture, and a people.
Some Jews appreciate the fact that they are a part of a close-knit community. Other Jews enjoy keeping Shabbat or davenning three times a day. Other Jews like learning Torah and discussing Jewish ideas. Regardless of what it is, there is some part of Judaism that is appealing to each and every Jew. To “live by” Hashem’s commandments means that we should figure out what part of Judaism brings us the most joy and make this a part of our life. If you enjoy the community aspect, then be sure to invite Jewish people over your house or to attend events in the community. If you enjoy the spiritual aspect of Judaism, then be sure to sing zmirot on Shabbat and to spend a good deal of time davenning.
If we “live by” Hashem’s commandments, then we make Judaism the central core to who we are. We allow the Torah to guide every aspect of our life. Whether it is how we deal with other people or how we personally relate to the World, we should use the mitzvot as a basis for all of our actions and for our lifestyle. We should make Judaism the central core of who we are.