Acharei Mot, After the Deaths
This week our portion is called אחרי מות “Acharei Mot” which means “After the Deaths”, and it refers to the moment after Aaron’s sons have died. This week, we remember so many deaths as we commemorate ANZAC Day and remember all those who died serving our country and upholding our values. We also commemorate Yom Hashoah, and remember the many millions who were murdered in the Holocaust and do so against the backdrop of another war, as we watch what is happening in the Ukraine. So many people, each one a family member, a friend, a life.
In the aftermath of Aaron’s sons’ deaths, the Torah tells us he was silent, he could not find the words to speak of the loss he felt. And we find this in the aftermath of so many tragedies and loss of life; it is so hard to put into words our feelings and emotions. A Midrash said, that in those moments, God was crying with Aaron, God was with him in his pain and struggle. But what happens next? After the shock, the loss, the suffering, after crying the tears, acharei mot, after the deaths, what do we do?
Acharei Mot, אחרי מות , After the Deaths, we look for answers, we try to find a ‘why?’ But often there is no ‘why.’ After the deaths of his sons, Aaron was commanded to return to his community, to go back to ritual and connection with others. He was called to return to life, and so too are we. To find a way, to find strength and courage, to bring light and fight against hate and evil with our love. Sometimes it feels hopeless, that the forces are too great but Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor wrote: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Sometimes we have to accept that we cannot control everything in the world but we can control who we are and what we want to radiate into the world and in the face of evil, of horror, of loss and death we must respond with compassion, goodness and humanity and it is from there, that we can find strength and courage to be in an uncertain world which sometimes feels unsafe and chaotic. Viktor Frankl again: “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts, comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”.
Acharei mot, אחרי מות, After the Deaths, we are called upon to choose the way of goodness, the way of compassion, the way of strength, comfort and support. And we are called to remember. To remember every person, to say their names, to tell their stories and try and enact the compelling phrase, never again, as we hope to build a world of peace.
עוֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם בִּמְרוֹמָיו הוּא יַעֲשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל יוֹשבֵי תֵבֶל וְאִמְרוּ: אָמֵן
Oseh Shalom bimromav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu veal kol yoshvei tevel ve imru amen
May God who brings peace in the heavens, bring peace to all the world and all people.
By Rabbi Jacki Ninio