Aharei Mot and Kedoshim
For the week of May 5, 2001 / 12 Iyar 5761
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 16:1 - 20:27
Haftarah: Amos 9:7-15

You've Go To Actually Do It

Keep my decrees (Vayikra / Leviticus 19:19)

This week's parasha (English: portion) includes some very clear and practical directives. Some examples are:

  • Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight (19:13).
  • Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind (19:14).
  • Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life (19:16).

Right in the midst of these God says, "Keep my decrees" (Vayikra / Leviticus 19:19). Isn't that a little strange? It's like reading a set of instructions for a toaster that says, "Plug power chord into receptacle, put toast into slots. If only a single slice desired, ensure it is placed in slot marked 'For single slice only.' Push lever down until it clicks. FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS!"

The instructions wouldn't say that. It may say that at the beginning in order to encourage the user to read them, but not in the middle or at the end. If you want to use the toaster properly and you have taken the time to read the instructions, are you not going to do what they say? But then again, I wonder how many reasonable and clear instructions we have received in life that we ignore.

Now the Torah is God's instructions. While most people don't follow these instructions, we would expect that one would follow them or not. Those who don't respect God's instructions will ignore them no matter how strongly they are stated. While those who read them to do them, would just do them without the need of extra encouragement. But is that really the case?

This emphatic reminder to keep God's decrees shows us that we do need that reminder. The fact is it is so easy just to read God's instructions without actually doing them.

How many of us have found ourselves insisting that we are so careful to follow God's ways only to discover that all along we have been ignoring much of what he says? Reading God's instructions, talking about his instructions, and getting upset when other don't follow his instructions are not the same as actually doing them.

Maybe we need this reminder after all.

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