Parashat Acharei Mot: “In Awe of Love” - Vital Transformation

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Parashat Acharei Mot: “In Awe of Love”

Weekly Pearl of Wisdom for Your Shabbat Table

Parashat Acharei Mot: “In Awe of Love”

This week, we begin Parashat Achrei Mot; אחרי מות, literally meaning “after the death,” which discusses the conversations after the death of Aaron’s two sons: Nadav and Avihu. We also have begun ספירת העומר, the 7 weeks of the counting of the Omer from Passover through Shavuot.

What can we learn from the sons?

The Torah teaches us that Nadav and Avihu were killed because they “came too close”; because they neglected respect. They brought an offering when not commanded to get closer to The Creator, and they did not respect the rules in place. We learn from them to value respect and awe. We learn that in our service to God, we are to serve Him with awe. At the same time, we learn to serve Him with happiness and joy. So which one is it? Where is our focus? Where do we begin? We learn to begin our journey with awe of God. We start this by first having awe for our teachers, our Rabbi, and our authority. The reason why it is best to begin with our teacher and not God is that it keeps our ego healthy. If we were to begin with awe of God, we may easily develop an ego that we respect God and not strive to be awed by His people as well. It is ideal to start our respect with teachers because they will keep you in check and give you true critique to ensure your journey is real. They will ensure your awe has the correct intentions and is genuine. Once your level of awe is strong, it is ready to be applied to your relationship with God.

Can our love last?

We learn to start our connection with respect and awe because that is the lasting way. Love cannot ensure a relationship will last. Take for example our love for fish. We love fish and therefore we kill it and eat it. Or apply it to people; if an exciting person comes along while you are upset at someone you love, you may choose to leave the person you love. Awe and respect though, ensure a lasting foundation and relationship.

The beautiful thing that happens is that once we have a foundation of awe, then we can reach the highest levels of happiness in our relationship with God. A deep love for God is the reward we receive for our respect for Him. With your love and awe, then you will be happy at any chance to serve God. You will want to dance and sing at the chance to bake challah, to wear Tzitzit, to pray on Shabbat! By beginning to serve God with awe, then the deep happiness and elevating singing in our service come in.

Why awe?

Our Parasha is for us all to learn from the death of Nadav and Aveehu. They were two of the holiest men. They were holy Cohanim, the leaders of the nation. In fact, the two brothers were one day going to take over the leadership of their father Aaron, and their uncle Moshe! As leaders, as role models, as godly men, they had to be more careful, with specifically their respect for the rules. From this, we learn that we too must be more respectful. We learn that respect is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. When we start with respect, then we can learn.

When we are spiritual, we can bring respect into it. Before visiting a holy place or a holy person, walk in with respect. Before entering the synagogue, stand outside for a moment, feel awe for the sacred place and its service, and then enter.

With this awe, you gain tremendously. Respect is transformative and strengthens us all. Having respect for rules and our authority is not for whoever is the authority, but strictly for you. It is best for you to have respect for your teachers, parents, and mentors. Respect will allow us to trust the rules, trust the process. One of the many reasons for the death of the two brothers was their lack of respect for timing. They rushed the process and sacrificed too soon to God. They had a lack of awe for the offerings and brought a fire that was not for them to bring. Awe gives us the foundation to trust the process, the timing, and the leadership.

Counting The Omer

Beginning from the second night of Passover, we count 7 weeks until the holiday when we receive the Torah, the festival of Shavuot. During these 7 weeks, we are building up and counting up to true transformation. Each night, we count and work on a different Sefirah, a different facet of ourselves.

Why do we count the Omer?

On Passover we receive a special light, the light of wisdom, which needs to be contained in a vessel. This vessel is created through the Seder night. But, after we wrap up the tablecloth and move on, we lose the vessel and the light goes back. Kabbalah teaches us that the light goes back like a baby going back into its mother’s womb. It was created but now it must go back. To build back our vessel to contain this elevated light, we count 7 weeks. We are counting to the festive end, which is the holiday of Shavuot when we receive the Torah. Because of our counting, we can receive the most elevated light of the Torah with this new vessel that we built.

What are we working on?

The time of the Omer is the same time that 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s holy students died. Their death was due to a lack of love amongst each other– a lack of unity. We learn that the Omer is the time for the Jews to elevate to the highest levels of love; the highest level of love being total unconditional love for one another. The dark side knew that if the Jewish people were to reach such unity, it would lose its power. Therefore it pushed us apart! The dark side pushed true love away and weakened us. The students were so learned, so righteous, but did not have love for one another. As we mentioned before, love requires respect too! With this misuse of love, the students’ love fell to the dark side resulting in a lack of real unity amongst each other.

Love requires accepting those that hold different opinions than you, and respecting others for who they are even if they are different from you. The Omer is a time to build unconditional love in our relationships, especially relationships with the people you learn with and people who are different from you. Rabbi Akiva teaches us that the most important thing in the Torah is to love your neighbor. To love is to accept, not to agree. Not to expect others to be the same as you, but rather to accept them as they are. Every day of the Omer we are counting, we are building our growth within our love, our awe, and ourselves.

Shabbat Shalom

-Rabbi Eliyahu Jian


Eliyahu Jian May 22, 2024

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