Drash on Parashat Acharei Mot II – Leviticus 18:1-30
This parashah deals with God’s commandments to keep separate from the practices of the people in Canaan and Egypt. We must faithfully observe God’s laws, by the pursuit of which man shall live. Just about the whole chapter revolves around the taboo of seeing someone unclothed.
Nakedness is טמאה – unclean. We are to stay pure, keeping God’s laws and not falling into the arms of the impure people among whom we live.
Today I officiate at many many interfaith weddings. In fact, my husband was raised Catholic – an alter boy. He has never converted, though he considers himself a man without a religion. My daughter married a Catholic woman. Why did this happen? Because I have never followed the Laws? Because I have been seduced by alien tribes? Yet there are those raised in Orthodox traditions who leave their families to engage in the wider world.
There is no right way, no clear path. Even staying on the path of Orthodox law is, in these days of constant and universal communication, a choice. We no longer live in shtetls or ghettos, isolated from the larger population. We must make decisions at almost every moment of our lives: do we go left, or do we go right? Do we stay on the path of our ancestors, or do we help to revision a tradition that lives in unity with the larger world.
There is no right way, no clear path. We were given free will, and we must each of us chose or find our own path.
But there are other ways of looking at the laws and rituals our people have followed through the generations: they have held us together as a people; and they help to keep us focused on blessings and awe, grateful for the opportunities our rituals and laws allow.
When we have to think of what foods are allowed us, and what utensils are allowed us, and what waters are commanded us for purity, we live in this world with an awareness of awe. Too easily can we slip into dull routine. Boredom. Our laws and customs, our rituals and rules are a way of keeping us awake to this world and our place in it. They create order out of possible chaos. They are an opportunity for us to live in the light of holiness.