Acharei Mot II, Leviticus 18:1–30 Parshat Ha Shavua for Shabbat, April 30, 2022

What gives our lives meaning? Is there a purpose to our existence? There is a way in which Jewish religious practice and Jewish sacred texts answer these questions by turning the mundane daily activities of life into actions that are both sacred and profound. We see this in the Jewish view of eating. Eating is essential for life and celebrated in Jewish life. But certain foods, like meat, are restricted. We cannot eat any meat we want, pork for example, nor can we eat it with anything we want… no cheeseburgers. These restrictions teach us that we should not  be controlled by our appetites. Further, the entire act of eating is sanctified by reciting a blessing before and after we eat. Thus, an action that is essential for physical survival is turned into a spiritual practice and sanctified. The same is true for sex, the subject of this week’s Torah portion. Sex is also seen as essential for life, a God-given pleasure, and thus to be celebrated. But it too is restricted. In this week’s Torah portion there is a long list of prohibited sex acts, mostly different forms of incest. Through establishing a series of restrictions, Judaism attempts to sanctify sex and elevate it from a purely physical activity to spiritual one. Our lives have meaning according to Jewish religious practice to the extent that we give them meaning by seeing all our lives as opportunities to cultivate the sacred in the mundane.