Atonement

“Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them: Ye shall be holy; for I the L-RD your G-d am holy.” – Leviticus 19:2, 1917 JPS Tanach

The translation of Acharei-Mot Kedoshim, the names given to the double parashas reading, is After Death, Holiness. How profound a statement, if taken on a literal level as such: after death, will holiness prevail in the afterlife? This question may be approached in the following oblique manner:

The deaths of Nadav and Abihu are mentioned, before describing the Yom Kippur service. The question is asked by the Sages, why are their deaths mentioned in connection to Yom Kippur? The answer given is because as Yom Kippur serves as for an atonement, so do the deaths of the righteous act as atonement.

From this Talmudic commentary, it is understood that upon death of the righteous, it as if a greater level of holiness is bestowed upon the kedoshim (holy persons), that will prevail in having the effect of atoning for other’s sins. The status of the tzaddikim (righteous persons) after death, is raised to the level of sanctity, that will serve on the same level of an offering brought to atone for sins.

Consider the following statement from the Midrash. “Will not a time come upon when Israel will have neither Tabernacle nor Temple? What will happen to them (as regards atonement)?’ He replied, ‘I will take a righteous man from amongst them and make him a pledge on their account, and I will atone for their iniquities” (Midrash on Exodus 35:4).

What hope do we have to reach the level of holiness that the L-RD requires? Aside from doing our best to look towards Torah as a means to live in accordance with G-d’s expectations, if we fall short of the mark, who will make up the difference for us? We may seek holiness in this life, and obtain a good place in Olam Haba (the World to Come), through the Tzaddik Yesod Olam (Righteous Foundation of the World).

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