This week, we learn the dual portions Acharei Mot and Kedoshim (holy things). The parasha is an elaboration on mitzvot that God has already given the Jewish people in the Ten Commandments: I am God. Do not worship idols. Respect your father and mother. Observe Shabbat.
The parasha also teaches us to be honest, preserve justice, avoid gossip and not bear a grudge.
The parasha contains some chukim – laws that do not have an obvious reason, but that we observe because God commands us to do so. These include not eating the fruit of a tree for its first three years and dedicating the fruit of the fourth year to God, and not planting seeds of mixed kinds in the same field.
One mitzvah that fascinates me is “You shall not place a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God, I am the Lord.” Our Sages explain that this mitzvah has several parts:
(1) Do not mislead people. If your Mom has said no video games at night and little brother Avi asks you if it’s OK to play them after dinner, don’t tell him it’s OK to play.
(2) Do not help someone commit a sin even when he knows he is doing wrong. If Mom has told Avi not to play video games tonight and he says he’s going to play anyway, do not get the game system out of the closet for him.
(3) Do not do anything that would encourage someone to sin. If Mom has grounded Avi from video games, don’t play them in front of him.
This looks like you have to take responsibility for what your brother does. Are you your brother’s keeper? You bet you are! Remember how Cain asked this question of God when God questioned Cain about the death of Abel? That’s what God is reminding us of with the second part of this commandment: “You shall fear your God, I am the Lord.” God knows how we treat people, even when we think no one is watching.
Shabbat shalom (and take care of your siblings),
This summary is based on Rabbi Shmuel Gordin’s discussion in Unlocking the Torah Text: Vayikra.