Acharei Mot - Kedoshim
13 Iyar 5772 / May 4-5, 2012
This week we have another double portion. In addition to being introduced to the holiday of Yom Kippur and the concept of scapegoating (True story! There is a literal goat that becomes the scapegoat!), we are also provided with a significant list of sexual relationships that are considered forbidden, perverse and abominable, as part of a broader narrative dealing with holiness.
One of the most challenging verses in the Torah appears in this week’s reading:
“You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination.”
This is the verse that has traditionally been used to condemn homosexuality, and the associated punishment in the Torah is the death penalty.
One of the most important verses in the Torah also appears in this week’s reading:
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall reprove your fellow and do not bear a sin because of him. You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your fellow as yourself – I am God.”
According to Rabbi Akiva, one of our most heralded rabbis (who lived between 50 and 135 CE), “love your fellow as yourself” is the fundamental rule of the entire Torah.
Regardless of your feelings as it relates to the applicability or interpretation of the first verse, there is a significant lack of love being shown to those whom it is perceived are in violation of it. While the Torah says that at times it is necessary to reprove others, it says that it must be done from a place of love, and cannot be from a place of hate.
This week, as a mechanism for countering homosexuality, a North Carolina pastor encouraged fathers to break the wrists of their sons, to “man up,” and “give them a good punch” if they started to act in ways perceived as effeminate.
While he would likely argue that his intent was to reprove and to help individuals avoid sin, it would be farfetched to argue that the pastor’s suggested methods could be perceived as coming from a place of love. Countless studies have shown that physical violence, even in the form of a simple spanking, is not the most effective or healthy way to discipline children… let alone breaking bones and throwing punches, which under any legal definition would be considered child abuse.
We are all imperfect creatures.
We all have a Divine spark within us.
Physical violence is the opposite of love.
Love your neighbor as yourself.