The Afterdeath

“…And g-d spoke to Moshe after the death of Aharon’s two sons, when they drew near before G-d…” – Vayikra 16:1

וַיְדַבֵּר ה’ אֶל משֶׁה אַחֲרֵי מוֹת שְׁנֵי בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן בְּקָרְבָתָם לִפְנֵי ה’ – ויקרא טז, א

The first thirty-four verses of Parshas Acharei Mos speak of the holiest person, place, and time in the Jewish experience. Namely, they detail the service of theKohen Gadol, the High Priest— who is “separated, to be sanctified as most holy [of people]” (Divrei Hayamim I 23:13), in the Kodesh Hakadashim—the Holy of Holies in the Temple, the most sanctified space in the world, on Yom Kippur—the holiest day on the calendar. Understandably, our yearly reading of this parsha in the Torah is likewise intended to inspire us, as individuals, to strive for holiness.

The Afterdeath

The key to this quest for holiness lies in the name that we traditionally call this parsha, Acharei Mos. The words Acharei Mos, “after the death of,”refer to the circumstances in which G-d conveyed to Moshe the mitzvos recorded in this parsha; namely, after the death of Nadav and Avihu. Now, according to Chassidic teaching (see also Ohr Hachaim on Vayikra 16:1), the deaths of these two sons of Aharon resulted from their ecstatic love of G-d, which reached a point that their bodies could no longer handle. They truly and extraordinarily “drew near before G-d” (Vayikra 16:1). In view of that, the name Acharei Mos, meaning “after the death of the sons of Aharon,” is hinting that there is what to strive for even reaching the extraordinary heights reached by the sons of Aharon at their death!

How is this possible? For we are told in the following parsha, “you shall be holy, for I, Hashem, your G-d, am holy” (Vayikra 9:2). This means that the levels of holiness that a Jew can aspire to and reach are truly limitless, for they derive from the holiness of G-d, Who is truly infinite. The Torah therefore categorizes the commands stated in this parsha as “Acharei Mos,” after—or beyond—the “deaths of the sons of Aharon,” to teach us that even if you have reached what seems to be the “spiritual ceiling” for a living human being, there is still more work to be done and even greater holiness to aspire to and attain.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 12, pp. 92-93


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