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[Dvar Torah] Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

This week's parasha is Acharei Mot-Kedoshim. This week there is a double parasha, a rare occurrence in the Torah. This happens due to there being either 50 or 51 weeks in a Jewish year - depending on the lunar and solar calendar. Due to the varying number of weeks there has to be enough parashot to read throughout every year and in the years with less weeks two parashot are read in one shabbat. The parashot of Acharei Mot and Kedoshim are often read together because they both deal with issues of morality and holiness as well as contain some of the most powerful and significant commandments of the Torah. 

In this parasha, we are told some of the most common and well known mitzvot such as honoring our parents, keeping the Sabbath, treating others with fairness and kindness, and not engaging in gossip or slander. There are many different interpretations of this parasha and ways we can apply the learnings of this parasha to our daily lives.
The commandment of loving our neighbor as ourselves is perhaps the most well known mitzva, and is common to other religions. Rashi says that this commandment is about treating others with kindness, respect, and empathy. This means putting ourselves in others' shoes and considering their needs and feelings just as we would our own. We can also actively seek opportunities to do good for others, whether it's volunteering somewhere, donating to charity, or simply being a supportive friend and being there for others.

Rabbi Hirsch's interpretation of being holy says that we should strive to bring holiness into every aspect of our lives. This includes not only our religious practices, but also our daily routines, our relationships with others, and our education and work. We can sanctify ourselves by making conscious choices that align with our values and beliefs, and by taking time to reflect and connect with our spirituality.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Ibn Ezra's interpretation of this parasha focuses on the commandment not to curse the deaf or place an obstacle before the blind. He reminds us to be mindful of the impact of our words and actions on others. We can avoid hurtful behavior by being respectful with what we say and how we say it, avoiding gossip and negative talk of others, and seek to build others up rather than tear them down.

Rabbi Soloveitchik's interpretation of being separate and distinct from the world around us does not mean isolating ourselves, but rather maintaining our unique identity as Jews while engaging with the world. We can maintain our identity by staying true to our values and beliefs, even when they are not popular or mainstream. We can also seek out opportunities to learn and grow in our Jewish practice, whether it's through studying Torah, observing holidays and rituals, or connecting with our community. This can especially be said after the past two weeks where we had Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut. All three are days commemorating and honoring everything the Jewish people have endured to maintain their identity and stay loyal to each other to G-d. 

There are many different meanings and lessons that can be learnt from this parasha. If we were to discuss all of them we would not leave this room for weeks, but I believe the the three key things to remember from this parasha are to treat others with respect and compassion, be mindful of our words and actions - as they may have more impact than we may believe, and to never forget who we are and always be proud of our Jewish identity.

Thank you and Shabbat Shalom.

Annabelle, Grade 9