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Two Minutes of Torah: Acharei Mot-Kedoshim - Getting away with it

When we’re young, as children, we learn the difference between right and wrong and that in many ways, in life, we have choices to make.  We choose to do the right thing or we choose to do the wrong thing.  The reason that we avoid doing the wrong thing can be because we know it’s wrong and therefore we don’t do it.  It can also be because of a fear of punishment and when it’s just because of the fear of punishment sometimes people end up doing the wrong thing because they feel they can get away with it.  If it's all about the punishment and you know you won’t get caught is there really any problem?  I hope that we live our lives according to a different standard where we avoid doing the wrong thing and do the right thing because that’s the way it should be. 

In this week’s Torah portion of Acharei Mot-Kedoshim we get a very interesting series of laws known as the Holiness Code.  And in the midst of them, we get a number of specific laws.  We’re told that the wages of the person who is hired with you shall not remain with you all the nights until the morning so that we must pay our hired help immediately and in a timely fashion.  We are also told not to curse the deaf nor put a stumbling block before the blind.  But we shall fear our God, I am Adonai. 

These 3 commandments together, appearing one after the other, are things that we could get away with.  The hired help has very little control and very little power and so if we do not pay them immediately, what are they going to do about it?  The deaf person who is cursed does not hear the curse and the blind person, before whom a stumbling block is placed, does not see it.  So in all 3 cases, we have the power, and as such, we can get away with doing the wrong thing. 

But the Holiness code comes as a reminder and tells us no.  We must do the right thing.  And, it offers some warning by saying, and you shall fear God.  As if to remind us that God sees what we do, God knows what we do and even if we might get away with it here on earth, God is watching.  And then it reminds us, I am Adonai.  And the importance of this declaration at the end should not be underestimated.  

The Holiness code begins with God telling us, you shall be holy, for I, Adonai your God am holy, and here it says I am Adonai, just to remind us that we need to be holy.  And one of the ways that we can be holy is by always doing the right thing, even if we can get away with something, if we know it’s wrong, we should not do it.  Because in doing the right thing we can make ourselves holy just like God.

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