Alt Right Sunday: Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim (Leviticus 16:1–20:27)


Following the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, G‑d warns against unauthorized entry “into the holy.” Only one person, the kohen gadol (“high priest”), may—but once a year, on Yom Kippur—enter the innermost chamber in the Sanctuary to offer the sacred ketoret to G‑d.

Another feature of the Day of Atonement service is the casting of lots over two goats, to determine which should be offered to G‑d and which should be dispatched to carry off the sins of Israel to the wilderness.

The Parshah of Acharei also warns against bringing korbanot (animal or meal offerings) anywhere but in the Holy Temple, forbids the consumption of blood, and details the laws prohibiting incest and other deviant sexual relations.

The Parshah of Kedoshim begins with the statement: “You shall be holy, for I, the L‑rd your G‑d, am holy.” This is followed by dozens of mitzvot (divine commandments) through which the Jew sanctifies him- or herself and relates to the holiness of G‑d.

These include: the prohibition against idolatry, the mitzvah of charity, the principle of equality before the law, Shabbat, sexual morality, honesty in business, honor and awe of one’s parents, and the sacredness of life.

Also in Kedoshim is the dictum which the great sage Rabbi Akiva called a cardinal principle of Torah, and of which Hillel said, “This is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary”—“Love your fellow as yourself.”

Lev. 16:1: “The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the Lord.”

Aaron’s two sons didn’t stay in their lane. They offered strange fire while drunk in the Sanctuary. The closer you come to holiness, the more likely you are to be exposed. Great people can see right through you. In traditional Judaism, you don’t just walk up to great rabbis and say hi. The more traditional the form of Judaism, the more hierarchical it is and the more veneration Torah scholars receive and the more care they take with how they dress.

High achievers are more sensitive to the stench of under-earning, to people who don’t have an accurate view of themselves and of reality.

The Torah’s prescriptions are minute. They’re all process. Success and failure depend on process. You put the right ingredients in the right order and bake them in the oven at the right temperature, the cake comes out delicious.

There’s not a lot of room to just wing it with Jewish religious rituals.

Lev. 16:4-5: “He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on.”

From the Torah perspective, how you dress is important. Whether or not you bathe is important. Cleanliness is important, but it is part of a constellation of values, so for example, Orthodox Jews don’t bathe on the Sabbath and religious holidays. There are at times higher values than cleanliness.

The opposite of Torah is pointless self-destructive poverty. Underearning behavior — your phone dies, your car dies, your computer dies, you didn’t back up your work… Stability boredom so you create drama and isolate yourself.

Leviticus 16:

Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. 7 Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 8 He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat.[b] 9 Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. 10 But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.

11 “Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering. 12 He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the Lord and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain. 13 He is to put the incense on the fire before the Lord, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the tablets of the covenant law, so that he will not die. 14 He is to take some of the bull’s blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.

Judaism puts great stress on providing for your family. “Parnassah” is important. The Jewish way of life is expensive. All these bulls and goats and incense and sanctuaries don’t just pay for themselves.

The philosophical underpinning for all these cleansing rituals is that the world is full of poz and if you allow it to gather on and around you and accumulate, you will die.

Jacob Milgrom writes in his book on Leviticus:

All year long, Israel’s sins have been polluting the sanctuary. True, the pious have been bringing purification offerings, which prove effective because their impurity was caused inadvertently. However, what of the advertent, brazen sinner? Their sins have penetrated into the adytum, the inner sanctum, polluting the very seat of the Godhead, threatening the destruction of the community. Since the brazen sinners are barred from offering sacrifice, how then is the sanctuary purified? The answer is Yom Kippur, the annual Day of Purgation, when the high priest risks his life by entering the adytum-to which entry is forbidden to mortal humans-and purifies the adytum through a smoke screen. The high priest emerges, transfers the removed pollution plus all the sins of the people, which he confesses, onto the head of a live goat, and dispatches the goat to the wilderness…

The similarities between the Babylonian New Year Festival and Israel’s Yom Kippur are immediately apparent. On both occasions, (1) the temple is purged by rites that demand that the high priest rise before dawn, bathe and dress in linen, employ a censer, and perform a sprinkling rite on the sanctuary; (2) the impurity is eliminated by means of slaughtered animals; (3) the participants are rendered impure; and (4) the king/high priest submits to a ritual of confession and penitence.

In each of these categories there are also significant differences. (1) Whereas in Babylon the demon-intruder is exorcised, in Israel it is the sin and iniquity generated by humanity that must be expunged. Israel uniquely elevated the people and their behavior to being worthy of divine scrutiny. The fate of the nation rests on the shoulders ders not of its leadership but of its laity. Moreover, whereas the purgation of the temple is the predominant aim of all of the rituals during the Day of Purgation, the Babylonian purgation rite is relatively minor, preparing one of the many cellas in Marduk’s temple, Esagila, for the brief stay of a visiting god, Nabu. (2) In Babylon the detergent itself (the carcass of the ram) is eliminated; in Israel elimination is achieved by dispatching a goat onto which Israel’s sins have been loaded. To be sure, Israel’s detergent, the carcass of the purification offering, is burned, thereby paralleling ing the Babylonian elimination procedure (see chap. 4, THEME A). Hence one can infer that the Azazel goat was originally a discrete elimination technique that was artificially attached to the sanctuary purgation in order to focus on Israel’s moral failings ings rather than on the sins and impurities that polluted the sanctuary. (3) In Babylon the impurity of the slaughterer and officiating priest lasts seven days-the remainder of the festival-whereas in Israel the impurity of the dispatcher of the goat and the burner of the purification offering carcasses lasts one day. Furthermore, the exact Israelite counterparts, the officiating priest and the slaughterer, are not rendered impure. And in Babylon, because the high priest becomes impure merely by watching ing the purgation, lower temple officials conduct the ritual. In Israel, by contrast, the entire ritual is conducted by the high priest. (4) In Babylon the king undergoes a ritual ual of humiliation: the high priest strikes his cheek, drags him by the ears, and makes him bow to the ground; tears indicate the king’s penitence and the god’s favor. His confession is within a political context; he has been a faithful custodian of the god’s temple and city and has not violated the political rights of the kidinnu (a protected group). The major difference lies in the self-reflection of the Babylonian king and the fact that he focuses on his own conduct, whereas in Israel the high priest confesses the failings of his people. In other words, in Babylon the viability of the society depends solely on the worthiness of the king; in Israel the national destiny is equated with the moral condition of the people, as articulated through the priest.

* Lev. 16:29: “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you— 30 because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins. 31 It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance.”

Normally, ease and comfort are good things in Judaism, but there are occasions when you deny yourself. In general, work is highly encouraged in Judaism, but there are days such as the Sabbath and Yom Kippur when you must abstain from work. Judaism is a constellation of values.

Lev. 17:10: “I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people. 11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.[c] 12 Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.”

13 “‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, 14 because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, “You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.”

God gives life. Blood represents life and death. You return the blood to God. You don’t eat it.

* Leviticus 18:

6 “‘No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord.

7 “‘Do not dishonor your father by having sexual relations with your mother. She is your mother; do not have relations with her.

8 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father.

9 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.

10 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter; that would dishonor you.

11 “‘Do not have sexual relations with the daughter of your father’s wife, born to your father; she is your sister.

12 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s sister; she is your father’s close relative.

13 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your mother’s sister, because she is your mother’s close relative.

14 “‘Do not dishonor your father’s brother by approaching his wife to have sexual relations; she is your aunt.

15 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your daughter-in-law. She is your son’s wife; do not have relations with her.

16 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife; that would dishonor your brother.

17 “‘Do not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter. Do not have sexual relations with either her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter; they are her close relatives. That is wickedness.

18 “‘Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.

19 “‘Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period.

20 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor’s wife and defile yourself with her.

21 “‘Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.

22 “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

23 “‘Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.

24 “‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. 25 Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things, 27 for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. 28 And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.

The life of Torah is one of sexual discipline. I only ever met one Orthodox Jewish nudist and he knew he was a freak and he was a baal teshuva, and he wasn’t married and he got into trouble when his predilections were discovered. Public nudity is not Jewish.

Leviticus 19:

9 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.

11 “‘Do not steal.

“‘Do not lie.

“‘Do not deceive one another.

12 “‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.

13 “‘Do not defraud or rob your neighbor.

“‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.

14 “‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.

15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

16 “‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people.

“‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.

17 “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.

18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

19 “‘Keep my decrees.

“‘Do not mate different kinds of animals.

“‘Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.

“‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.

* In retrospect, the Syrian strikes seem pointless and almost harmless. Trump never spoke about regime change.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Torah. Bookmark the permalink.