This week's Torah reading consists of two Parshiot — Acharei Mot ("After the Death") and Kedoshim ("Holy Ones").

Following the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, who "came close to G‑d and died", G‑d tells Moses to instruct Aaron

...that he should not enter, at all times, into the holy, inside the Parochet (the "veil" that separated the "Holy of Holies" from the rest of the Sanctuary), before the Kaporet (cover) that is upon the Ark—lest he die; for in a cloud I appear above the Kaporet...

Only on the holiest day of the year—Yom Kippur—and after bringing a series of specially ordained offerings, should the Kohen Gadol ("high priest") purify himself, put on white linen garments, and enter the chamber housing the Ark:

He shall take a pan-full of fiery coals from atop the altar that is before G‑d, and the fill of his hands of finely-ground ketoret (incense), and bring them inside the Parochet.

And he shall place the ketoret upon the fire before G‑d; and the cloud of incense shall cover up the Kaporet that is on [the Ark of] the Testament...

Our Parshah then goes on to detail the service performed by the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur to secure atonement for his people. Among the offerings of the day were two male goats:

And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for G‑d, and one lot for Azazel.

The goat that which the lot determined to be "For G‑d" is brought as an offering and its blood is sprinkled in the Holy of Holies. The one deemed for "Azazel" is "dispatched by the hand of an appointed man into the wilderness; and the goat shall bear upon it all their sins to a barren land."

And he shall make atonement for the holy place, over the defilements of the children of Israel, over their transgressions in all their sins. And so shall he do for the Tent of Meeting, which dwells amongst them in the midst of their defilement...

And this shall be an everlasting statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, the home born or the stranger that sojourns among you.

For on this day will He will atone for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before G‑d... once a year.

The Parshah of Acharei also warns against bringing offerings to G‑d anywhere but in the Holy Temple, forbids the consumption of blood, and details the laws prohibiting incest and other deviant sexual behaviors.

Holiness and Love

The Parshah of Kedoshim begins with G‑d's statement to the people of Israel:

You shall be holy, for I, G‑d your G‑d, am holy.

G‑d then proceeds to command numerous mitzvot, many of which are cardinal precepts of Torah law. E.g.,:

Every man shall fear his mother and his father and keep my Sabbaths; I am G‑d your G‑d.

Turn not to idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods; I am G‑d your G‑d...

You shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.

And you shall not swear by my name falsely; neither shall you profane the name of your G‑d. I am G‑d.

You shall not defraud your neighbor, neither rob him; the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with you all night until the morning.

Charity to the needy,

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleaning of your harvest... You shall leave them for the poor and stranger; I am G‑d your G‑d.

and equality before the law,

You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment—you shall not give special consideration to a poor man, nor honor the great; in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.

Also in our Parshah: the injunction not to "stand by your brother's blood" (i.e., the duty to "get involved" when another's life is threatened); the duty to "rebuke your fellow" over his wrongdoing rather than to "hate your brother in your heart"; prohibitions against slander and gossip, taking revenge and bearing a grudge.

Kedoshim also contains the dictum which the great sage Rabbi Akiva called "a cardinal principle of Torah" and of which Hillel said, "This is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary":

Love your fellow as yourself.

In addition to these "mitzvot between man and man," there are "mitzvot between man and G‑d" such as the chokim (supra-rational divine decrees) against hybrid cross-breeding of different animal species, hybrid planting of plant species, and shaatnez — hybrid use of wool and linen in a garment.


When you shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then you shall reckon their fruit as orlah ("uncircumcised"). Three years shall it be as orlah unto you: it shall not be eaten.

The fourth year's produce is to be taken to Jerusalem, where it is eaten in sanctity; "its fruit shall be holy for praise-giving to G‑d." Only "in the fifth year shall you eat of its fruit, that it may yield to you its increase."


You shall not round the corners of [the hair of] your heads; neither shall you destroy the corners of your beard...

Do not prostitute your daughter, to cause her to be a harlot; lest the land fall to harlotry, and the land become full of foulness....

You shall rise up before the white-haired, and honor the face of the old man, and fear your G‑d; I am G‑d.

And if a stranger sojourn with you in your land, you shall not wrong him... and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am G‑d your G‑d.

A severe warning is issued for those who assume the practice of the inhabitants of the land of Canaan to sacrifice their children to the pagan god Molekh.

Kedoshim concludes with a list of prohibitions against illicit sexual relations: adultery, various incestuous relationships (a father's wife, a daughter-in-law, an aunt, a sister, a sister-in-law, etc.), homosexuality, bestiality, relations with a menstruating woman.

And you shall be holy to Me, for I, G‑d, am holy, and I have separated you from the nations, that you should be Mine.