Erev Shabbos Kodesh Acharei-Mos-Kedoshim Inspiration 5775

Parashas Acharei-Mos and Kedoshim discuss the prohibitions of licentious relationships. One must wonder why the Torah would need to elaborate on an area that sane people find repulsive. We can safely assume that the prohibition against licentious relationships is dissimilar to the prohibition of eating pig, where Rashi (Vayikra 20:26) cites the Medrash that states that one should not say, “I am not interested in eating pig or wearing shaatnez (clothing comprised of wool and linen).” Rather, one should declare, “I desire to eat pig and wear shaatnez, but my Father in heaven has decreed that this is prohibited.” This being the case, why the focus on forbidden relationships which one does not desire?

There is an interesting Gemara (Yoma 69b) that states that the Sages sought to eradicate the desire for licentious relationships and ultimately they succeeded in some form (See Maharsha there and Rashi tם Sanhedrin 64a). One must wonder why the Sages were looking to negate something that the Torah had already forbidden. The Gemara states previously that the Sages had nullified the inclination for idolatry, because apparently idolatry was something that people desired. Why, however, did they seek to nullify the impulse for licentious relationships when this is something that people abhor?

I believe the answer can be found in our custom to read by Mincha of Yom Kippur the portion of Acharei-Mos that discusses the licentious relationships. On Yom Kippur we are akin to angels, where we do not engage in eating, drinking and marital relations. Nonetheless, the Sages required us to hear the portion in the Torah regarding licentious relationships so that one should  not even contemplate stumbling in a serious transgression on the holiest day of the year. Yes, we are holy and angelic, but we still possess freedom of choice. The prohibition of licentious relationships is not so much about the fact that a person desires these relationships. Rather, the Torah is instructing us as to how scrupulous we must be in refraining from sin. Indeed, Rashi in the beginning of Kedoshim teaches us that wherever there is a fence for immorality, that is where we can find holiness. The holiness of Yom Kippur, then, is due to our exercising restraint in the area of licentious relationships.

HaShem should give us the strength to refrain from sin and observe all of His Holy Mitzvos.

Have an Amazing Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

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