29 Nisan 5782
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It was You who opened springs and streams; You dried up the ever-flowing rivers. The day is Yours, and yours also the night; You established the sun and moon. It was You who set all the boundaries of the earth; You made both summer and winter. (Tehilim 74:15-17).
We read in Bereshit that when the Eternal created the physical world, He established order, and this order included boundaries. Today it seems that western culture is constantly looking for how to break the limits established by God. They are promoting distortion sponsored by the misunderstandings of positive psychology, and above all by humanism, which promotes selfishness by bombarding us with phrases and thoughts such as: “it’s my body”, “if it gives you pleasure, go for it”, “don’t limit yourself”, “the sky is the limit”, and so on.
After having recently celebrated Pesach, this year Parashat Achare Mot (after the death) is separated from Parashat Kedoshim (holiness). Achare Mot deals with the boundaries established by God so that we can have a life of abundance and peace.
Even our life has a limit, which Job 14:5 says, “A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” And this is how our parashah begins, when the sons of Aaron thought that they could exceed the Eternal’s limits by failing to comply and by offering something that the Bore Olam did not require of them; when they got too close, that is, they broke the limit established by God, they died because of their actions.
Our portion says in Vayikra 18:3-5: “You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God. Keep my decreesand laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD.”
If we observe and fulfill the Torah, we will live, becoming righteous men and women (tzadikkim), and our actions will become a door for our souls, day by day, as Tehillim 118:20 says. “This is the gate of the LORD, through which the righteous may enter”.
These verses in Vayikra are the essence of our daily lives, since the limits begin by establishing our boundaries in relation to our sexuality, something that the practices, customs and uses in the modern world encourage us to break every day. We watch sexual exposure in advertisements, on the street with clothing that degrades both men and women, exposure in movies (even children´s movies!), magazines, newspapers, radio, mass media, billboards, among many other things, which constantly bombard our senses, especially our eyes, ears, and touch. It is said by our sages that sexuality can become idolatry for man.
And as Rambam says in the Mishnei Torah 21, the impulse of the Yetzer Hara (the evil inclination) can make the most righteous men fall, so setting limits is necessary. We cannot consider ourselves to be “good enough to practice “a or b”, immoral or amoral sexual behavior,” or “too righteous to not fall into temptation and allow ourselves to overreach even a little.” Rav Shaul said to the Kehilah in Corinth: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Cor. 10:12). Corinth was not just any Cosmopolitan city of its time; cities normally within paganism followed certain practices to which they dedicated their lives, their jobs, their families, their culture, and their education. In this case, Corinth was a city that had a temple dedicated to Aphrodite (goddess of love and beauty who was unfaithful to her husband, Hephaestus). And it is said that sexual immorality was widespread. In fact, the expression “young Corinthian” was synonymous with “prostitute,” and to “Corinthianize” meant living an immoral life. In later Greek comedies, “Corinthian” was occasionally used to designate a drunkard. According to Strabo, there were 1,000 young slave girls as temple prostitutes at the sanctuary of Aphrodite located on the Acrocorinth.
If limits (decorum) are not established in our relationships with our family and those close to us, sexual inclination can be ignited, and we might get surprises. The Torah instructs that all these rules (limits) are for us to live a full life. I recently listened to a Torah class where Rabbi Nathan Menashe explained why the commandments of sexual behavior began with this verse: “No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the LORD.” (18:6). Because it is in the family in many cultures that this type of distorted relationship occurs and where most go unpunished, since one does not want a relative to go to jail, ruining the lives of two members of the household, the one who committed the error and who experienced the consequences of that error.
In fact, a consequence of breaking these limits is established when it says that the land can vomit (or expel) us, as happened to Corinth, which was destroyed by the Romans and its citizens were literally expelled from their land, leaving behind today only ruin and desolation.
When the world thought that they could act like Nadab and Abihu, breaking the limits, diseases of a sexual nature, mental disorders, and deep social problems began to emerge, destroying families and their lives. Unlike other beliefs, Judaism does not prohibit sexual relations, it only limits them. Why? Because sexuality was created for procreation and to strengthen the union between husband and wife, and with it, the achievement of a full life.
The limits of the Torah are wise, if we overeat, we get sick; if we work excessively, we stop being productive due to fatigue; if we don’t disconnect from our daily concerns, we burn out; In short, each area of our life must have a limit, a balance.
May the Eternal help us learn how to live under his limits revealed in his Torah! As we recite each Shabbat, “It is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold fast to her will be blessed.” (Proverbs 3:18).