Thursday, April 10, 2014

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey

This week's portion Acharei Mot (Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:1-18:30) starts with a mention of Nadab and Abihu's deaths—partially a punishment for their spiritually-motivated decision to remain celibate.

G-d wants us to walk a thin tightrope. He wants us to be married, go to work, and partake of lavish Shabbat and holiday meals—and at that very moment to be at the pinnacle of spirituality and holiness. A daunting task, to say the least. How does one simultaneously dwell in two contradictory worlds—the world of the spirit and the world of the flesh?

How does one simultaneously dwell in the world of the spirit and the world of the flesh? Every mitzvah is comprised of a body and soul. The body is the physical act which we are commanded to do, or which we are instructed to avoid. The soul is the lesson the mitzvah imparts, its message which we must implement in our lives. The prohibition against consuming blood, which is also discussed in this week's Parshah, as well as the process of its removal, teaches a powerful lesson pertaining to our approach to our relationship with the world.

We are not always fortunate enough to contend with the divine, or even with "humanity." On a daily basis we also have to deal with the "animalistic," completely non-spiritual aspects of regular life. Consumption of animal flesh is a metaphor for these moments of the day. Blood represents warmth, life and passion. The Torah enjoins us to remove all the blood from our worldly activities; to be involved in the world, to partake of its flesh, but without excessive enthusiasm or excitement.

How, you ask, is this possible? Through salt. Blood is removed from meat via a thorough salting process.

The Torah describes the covenant between G-d and His nation as a "salt covenant." The commentators explain that salt never decays, it remains eternally fresh; much as our relationship with G-d never expires or even becomes slightly stale.

Interestingly, the symbol of our relationship with G-d is a food item which is independently inedible—its primary purpose is to add wonderful taste to practically all other foods. Similarly, our relationship with G-d is not an end within itself, rather it is meant to give a spiritual "flavor" and meaning to all other aspects of our life.

We have to liberally sprinkle salt on every part of our life—on our workplace, on our dinner table, on our gym, and even on our vacation destinations. When our love for G-d and our desire to serve Him with every fiber of our being is our leading motivation, then all we do is for Him. We eat and exercise so that we have the strength to serve Him; we work to have the means to serve Him, etc.

And when life is salty, there's no need to run away to alternative experiences; our lives in this corporeal world will indeed take on full meaning and value.

(Excerpts from Chabad.org - by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg)

May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!

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