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Daniella Beswick - Dvar Torah

Good morning everyone. My Torah portion is called Acharei Mot found in the book of Leviticus. At first I thought my portion was going to be all about sexuality, but Rabbi Greg helped me to find the deeper meaning in my portion. My portion speaks about Aron and his reaction to G-d killing his sons, it speaks about the Cohein, Yom Kippur and reward and punishment, but today I will be focusing on some of the sexual laws and how we defile the land.

As my friends know, at school we are doing Sex Education and my Torah Portion talks about the sexual relationships that are forbidden. In the opinion of the Torah, sex was linked to marriage, because it speaks about the relationships around the sex and not just the act. So it makes sense that the Torah says that I can’t marry Nathan (Baruch Hashem) or my cat Charlie, or in the words of the Torah, “do not have carnal relations with any beast and defile yourself thereby.”

Most of these laws around forbidden sex made sense to me, but the one I had a problem with was verse 22 which is sadly a famous verse that has caused a lot of pain to many people around the world,

“Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman – it is an abhorrence”.

This verse is the one that has been used to prevent homosexual relationships either by actual laws or by social pressure.

I know for many people around the world this verse is true and they might say that Homosexuality is not okay because you can’t naturally have children, but I have grown up knowing gay and lesbian families who have raised and adopted children and have just as wonderful and challenging families as heterosexual couples.

Some people believe that what the Torah says goes, but some of these laws aren’t relevant in today’s world. Progressive Jews believe in equality and inclusivity and this is why men and women sit together and I am wearing a tallis and our Rabbis will marry gay couples. I am so proud to be part of this community.

The end of this chapter about forbidden sexual relations says that in doing these acts you are not just defiling yourself, you are defiling the land.

In modern day times, in my opinion we defile the land in so many ways – like littering, wasting water and deforestation.

I think with the way the world is going to day we all need to take responsibly and not put the blame on others because we have all in some way done something to defile the land. If we want to change the world we all need to do something to help and make a difference and not just expect others to do it. Like only watering on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, not littering and making the effort to buy Fair Trade products.

And this ties in absolutely with my Torah portion which talks about Yom Kippur in the time of the desert – the people would use two goats, one of which Aaron would sacrifice and one which they would put all their sins onto and then push over a cliff. This is where the word scapegoat comes from.

Since this year will be my first Yom Kippur as an adult and I cannot fast, I want this day to still be a day of atonement even if it’s not though fasting, whether I give up my technology or not eating in between meals. This year I hope that I can give up something, not just for the sake of it, but because I want to reflect.

Shabbat Shalom.

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