Whenever there is a double portion, we should try to glean some common teaching from them both. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains the connection between the beginning of the two portions as follows: Acharei Mot begins with the divine commandment of not going into the Temple at non-specified times, so Aaron and his remaining sons would not die like his first two sons, Nadav and Avihu (as detailed in Parashat Shemini). This would appear to be a command only appropriate for a priest, and specifically a High Priest. What teaching here is applicable to all of us?

The answer becomes clearer when we ask ourselves what Nadav and Avihu actually did wrong. Their sin was that they wanted to get close to G‑d - to run to G‑d, with no return, without anything anchoring them to this world. Their death was not a punishment but rather a result of the running to the infinite without an anchor. It is within the power of every Jew to reach the level of holiness of even the High Priest himself…

This is the teaching that is applicable to each of us. When you think even a little about how G‑d created each of us, and supplies us with our needs and helps us, it is appropriate to love G‑d. And this love can be expressed in many ways, even to the point of running towards G‑d with no thought of return, like the two sons of Aaron. Therefore the Torah is warning us that in a case where the love begins to swell, remember the sons of Aaron and do not make the same mistake. Loving G‑d is crucial but be careful not to get carried away.

Parashat Kedoshim begins with the words, "Speak to the entire congregation of the Children of Israel and tell them be holy because I, G‑d, am holy" (Lev. 19:2). A command to the entire Jewish nation to be holy! And why? Because G‑d is holy! It is within the power of every Jew to reach the level of holiness of even the High Priest himself, the main subject of Acharei Mot.

And this is why this week's reading begins with the warning, "Do not enter the Temple just any time..." (Ibid. 16:2). The teaching to each of us is to love G‑d but to find ways connected to this world to express it.

This is connected to the true definition of the word "kedoshim" (simply translated as "holy ones"). In general, it means separate and aloof from the world's temptations. Nevertheless, the intention is not simply to be absolutely apart from the world as is emphasized in other religions. Judaism does not have monasteries or convents. The point is to be separated in a way of "kedusha" - holiness. This is a uniquely Jewish idea: to be involved in the world but to remain above it until your actions begin to sanctify the world. Therefore, the name of this portion hints at this idea of being separate yet drawing all that we touch into sanctity. …We must not stand aside with the excuse, Who am I to help this person?

"And you should not walk in their laws...." (Ibid. 18:3) This is the Torah admonition not to follows the ways of the non-Jews. The author of Yosef Daas says that it is disgraceful for us to follow the ways of the nations, even if those ways are reasonable and logical for that time and place. It is incumbent upon us to stay as apart as possible. (Did he have teenagers?) Still, when all else fails, he says that we should beware of their "chukim", their premises, lest we take them on as though they were our own.

On the verse "Do not stand by the blood of your fellow-Jew" (Ibid. 19:16), Rashi explains, "If you see him drowning, it is forbidden to stand aside". Spiritually, too, we must do whatever we can to save a "drowning" Jew and draw him to the shore of his Torah-true heritage. We must not stand aside with the excuse, "Who am I to help this person?" No matter how we perceive our abilities or level of understanding, the fact that one is there to see and understand his or her fellow-Jew's situation is the critical factor; it indicates that Divine Providence wishes you to help him, and therefore guarantees you the necessary strength and skills. If we observe at least two Shabbats, we will merit to see G‑d's holy place, the Third Temple…

Another verse from the same chapter states, "My Shabbats [in Hebrew, 'Shabtotai'] you shall observe and for my Holy Place have awe [in Hebrew, 'tira'u"].(Ibid. 18:30) Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz, 16th century Rabbi of Jerusalem and author of the acclaimed Shnei Luchot Habrit, offers an amazing interpretation, one that provides a powerful lesson for every week of the year. He points out that the word "Shabtotai" is plural form, implying more than one Shabbat. The minimum number constituting a plural is two. Also, he interprets the word "tira'u" not as "you shall fear" but "you will see" (both words are spelled the same in Hebrew). Therefore, if we observe at least two Shabbats, we will merit to see G‑d's holy place, the Third Temple!

This interpretation sheds light on the Talmudic teaching that if all the Jews were to observe two Shabbats, Mashiach would come (Shabbat 118b). Why two? After all, a different version of this teaching says only one (Jerusalem Talmud, Taanit 1:1). According to Kabbala and Chassidut, every Shabbat has two aspects: the culmination and elevation of the week prior as well as the source and conduit for blessings for the week to come. Being cognizant of these two levels and acting accordingly enables us to fulfill the requirement of keeping two Shabbats each Shabbat. Do it, and bring Mashiach a little closer!

These two teachings encapsulate the primary role of the Jew today: responsibility for our fellow-Jews - particularly through education, and being an example by our deeds. As you may have noticed, however, the Talmud's requirement that "all Jews" keep Shabbat. The responsiblity falls on each of us to help. Then every-one will join in on those two Shabbats, and we can all celebrate the Redemption together.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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