Consistency: Aharei Mot 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Do you ever think that certain rules don’t apply to you? Are there rules – written or unwritten – that you feel are made only for a limited audience?

After the Torah text states priestly laws concerning Yom Kippur, the audience suddenly is told that all of Israel must similarly observe this sacred day:

The Pitch: “And this shall be to you a law for all time: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall practice self-denial; and you shall do no manner of work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you.” – Leviticus 16:29

Swing #1: “The people are addressed for the first time. Heretofore [in this chapter], they were referred to in the third person. … [It] is the first of several signs that this and the following verses comprise an appendix to the text.” – Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16

Swing #2: “Not only the form, but also the content of what is said here allows only one conclusion: A congregational leader or preacher is at work here. Is it one of the priests who performed the difficult work of slaughtering and aspersing blood – and now in conclusion admonishes the congregation to keep the festival ordinances?” – Erhard S. Gerstenberger, Leviticus: A Commentary

Swing #3: “We should not think therefore that the commandment to afflict oneself on that day applies only to the non-priests. The words “to you” make it plain that it applies to the whole nation including the priests.” – Or HaChaim

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators believe that requiring all Israelites to afflict themselves on Yom Kippur is a Godly requirement or a priestly requirement? Why might the ancient priests feel that all Israelites need to follow the same rules they do? Are consistent laws a necessity for creating a fair society? Or are there circumstances in which different rules can equally serve the needs of different groups?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: I’d like to thank the many people who have wished my family Mazal Tov on Shoshana’s Bat Mitzvah, which takes place tomorrow. We are touched by your constant support and feel grateful for the person Shoshana is and will become.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of rules that apply to all people, some baseball fans advocate for replacing home-plate umpires with robots – at least when it comes to calling balls and strikes. They argue that the strike zone is interpreted differently depending on the umpire, which leads to confusion among players. Is this idea fair or foul?

Shabbat Shalom!