That's Too Close
Acharei Mot ("After the Death")
Although Leviticus is the manual for a holy community, the portion makes it clear that not only will an Israelite benefit from the prohibitions against incest, all mankind will benefit. Because Eve was created to be "against" Adam, we know that she was made to be different from him. Diversity in the gene pool is also a good idea. After all, if close family members marry, and there is a family trait that is undesirable, then the bad traits intensify.
We know that incest produces offspring that have many physical and mental deformities and disabilities. In fact, the mere mention of the word incest causes disgust and horror. Many young girls and boys, however, have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of close relatives. The long-term effect of the sexual abuse is emotional wreckage in the lives of the children who have been denied the safety of this word of Torah.
It is the people among our own household from whom the Holy One commands protection in this Torah portion. Precisely because these close relatives may live in one's house or spend a lot of time there, often victims are not sufficiently protected from those closest to them. The guard is down with a close relative. Men are not to take advantage of this close relationship to request or demand sex, for women have a natural tendency to acquiesce to their close male relatives.
Because it is the male relatives' obligation to care for the needs of a female family member who is unmarried, orphaned, widowed, or otherwise vulnerable, he may become physically or emotionally attracted to the woman he is obligated to protect and violate the boundaries of respect the Torah demands in a holy house. The female, because she relies on and respects this father, brother-in-law, or uncle, is vulnerable because this male relative is performing the function of a husband in meeting her physical needs, but he is forbidden to fulfill her sexual needs, which are also physical.
A man is obligated by Torah to give his wife food, clothing, and conjugal rights. An uncle or brother in law who takes responsibility for the food and clothing may also feel entitled to give conjugal rights or take them, which is forbidden. Now the Torah also commands modesty from the female because of the passage "
" In verse 6, it reads "Any man shall not approach his close relative to uncover nakedness..." While the prohibition begins specifically with any man,
, singular, the tense changes to plural with the verb, approach (
). This hints that women also bear a responsibility to maintain modesty.
What does it mean not to "approach" someone to uncover his nakedness? The act of incest is illicit, but its approach is sin as well. According to Messiah Yeshua's teaching, it is possible to approach a woman without ever touching her. This occurs in a man's thoughts. He may have impure fantasies and give a woman immodest glances. There was a secular hit song from years ago called "Let's Give'em Somethin' to Talk About." One line talked about a man and woman looking at one another just a little too long. This is approaching. The approach had already been made before the act was committed. In Acharei Mot, the long looks or impure thoughts are aimed at a member of one's own household. How can we prevent these thoughts?
Those closest to us are not the ones we are prepared to be on guard against. There is deep relationship, good feeling, and emotional openness to close family members. It is the responsibility of every Israelite male to protect the women of his house and family from anyone taking advantage of that vulnerability. Look at the trouble King David had when he did not monitor what when on in his household. Had David known the business of the kingdom would keep him too distracted to monitor and protect his daughters and to prevent his sons from engaging in incest, murder, treason, and rebellion, he may have reprioritized, for he nearly lost that very kingdom to his son.
Anyone can expect the same trouble if he or she is not diligent to monitor the activity in the household. While the sin may be repented of and atoned for, the residue of the sin has lasting repercussions. There will be the emotional wreckage to sort through and repair. Can you imagine how Tamar felt? Her father, beloved King David himself, set her up to be raped by her brother! This is the dilemma every child of incest faces. The very people she trusted to keep her safe were the ones who put her in danger and violated her.
There are two practical steps to protect Israelite houses against incest. First, be very careful to monitor children, especially half-brothers and half-sisters. Be on the lookout for inappropriate glances, and carefully evaluate leaving daughters alone with close male relatives even if you really need a babysitter. Amnon plotted very carefully to get Tamar alone with him, and King David never considered the possibility that she would be harmed.
Many parents who find out about incest are shocked, for it never crossed their minds that the relative would even think about such a thing. Pray daily that children will be protected from sexual predators. In an age-appropriate way, it is good for children to hear parents pray this aloud. This helps daughters to know how precious they are, and for the sons to acquire a sense of obligation toward the women of their household to protect them. Siblings can help out if one of them is being singled out by a relative looking, touching, or talking in an inappropriate way. Seek the Heavenly Father for discernment in knowing when your children are in danger.
Children should be taught to dress and speak modestly, both boys and girls. It's the same things your mom and dad taught you, such as "Young ladies should not sit with legs sprawled." I once saw a female child pinch a male teenager on the rearend. Although she was a child and was playing, she violated a young man's space of sexual respect. This is inappropriate play even for a youngster. Teach children to respect physical boundaries at a young age, even before they understand why. As boys reach puberty, a father can teach his son to avert his eyes if he sees billboards, magazine covers, or other media with scantily-clad women, and it is a good time to talk to his son about avoiding talk that degrades women or reduces them to consumables.
Unless engaged in a sports activity, sexually maturing or mature young ladies should not wear tight-fitting clothes that accentuate buttocks or bust, nor should upper thighs be left exposed. Young men should not wear garments that accentuate the groin area. Bikinis and speedos are a no-go, and swimming activities should be constantly supervised. Young men should not go shirtless in mixed groups. Help your child make modest, but sensible garment selections for sports and other activities. A twelve-year-old is NOT AN ADULT. Until the child knows physical intimacy, she doesn't know what her parents know. Be a grownup and guide your children. It is your business.
Don't think because a man says he is saved or goes to church or synagogue that he would never look at your daughter or son in an improper way. His attendance may be to scout for easy, trusting prey. This easy, trusting prey includes the victim's naive parents!
Verbal flirting is just as immodest. Young men should be cautioned strongly against sexual talk that is not part of Torah study, healthy family talk, or a formal science class. Unwittingly, a young lady might initially find it exciting to use double-entendres to hint at sexual things she has no intention of following through with, but she should know that it is enticement, and the talk opens the door to impure fantasy. Intimate talk should be directed toward a spouse, not anyone else. Flirtatious talk that benefits a marriage relationship violates the boundaries of the unmarried. Young ladies should know that a young man who is not attracted to her intelligence or character will not respect her body as part of the whole.
Through movies and television, sons or daughters may not engage in illicit sexual activity, but they can approach it in thought. Large families with small living space may find it hard to maintain the spaces of respect, but be as careful as possible. Remember the song from the 90s, "Butterfly Kisses"? When the daughter grew to maturity, she told her dad, "I'm only going to kiss you on the cheek this time." This is a boundary of respect for each other. A sexually mature person, male or female, is responsible for personal modesty.
If these things sound too strict, remember, statistically, it is highly likely you work with the men or women every day who have violated these boundaries or had their boundaries violated by a trusted family friend or relative. Many times parents could have paid closer attention and prevented damage to their children. Your children trust you. They trust Good ol' Uncle Joe. But good ole Uncle Joe or sickly Brother Amnon may be predators. This Torah portion guarantees your children quality and purity of life if you will teach it to them and live it before them. In order for them to have this inheritance, you must set the hedges securely around them and patrol it
There is also danger in the larger family of a congregation. Because our guard is down in our congregational family, we are less prepared to establish and maintain our personal boundaries. Our brothers and sisters will transgress, or move into areas, that they are not mature enough to occupy nor should have never presumed to occupy without an invitation. Worse, we may prematurely invite them into spaces of emotional attachment that belong only to spouses or closest friends.
We've heard the expression, "You always hurt the one you love." This is true. Didn't Yeshua acutely feel Judas' betrayal even more than the religious leaders'? He expected the religious leaders and Romans to behave as they did. Judas, however, had occupied the inner circle of fellowship, discipleship, and emotional intimacy afforded to only twelve men.
The result of the betrayal was, as the Torah teaches, the exposure of nakedness; in this example, Yeshua's. His clothes were stripped from Him, and He became a picture of all Israel exposed in her nakedness among the nations where HaShem drove them. It is the exposure of real or imagined transgression in a person that makes him naked, according to Scripture. When an adversary gossips about someone else, exposing the person's sin and weakness (whether true or false), the accuser feels as though he or she has mastered the weaker, improving his or her own position:
Her adversaries have become the master, her enemies prosper; for the Lord has afflicted her Because of the multitude of her transgressions. Her children have gone into captivity before the enemy. And from the daughter of Zion All her splendor has departed. Her princes have become like deer that find no pasture, That flee without strength Before the pursuer. In the days of her affliction and roaming, Jerusalem remembers all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old. When her people fell into the hand of the enemy, with no one to help her, the adversaries saw her and mocked at her downfall. Jerusalem has sinned gravely, therefore she has become vile. All who honored her despise her because they have seen her nakedness." (Lamentations 1: 5-8)
While close friends may unpredictably turn, using information gleaned from the close attachment to wound,
many times those wounds can come through those who attach themselves for the purpose of creating a friendship in order to control the relationship
. When the victim finally observes the imbalance or does something to displease the pseudo-friend, it may be too late to correct the course, for the person has been given enough access to disrobe the victim with words. It never hurts to have an observation time for new acquaintances. Does the person seem too eager to insinuate himself or herself into the family instead of letting trust grow naturally?
Because he took our transgressions upon himself, Yeshua became naked before the nations. When we expose someone's real or imagined transgressions publicly, we strip them naked. We then doom their children to also go into captivity of spiritual incest, having seen a close relative's naked weaknesses. We must honor one another so that our children will inherit that attitude of honor for the Body of Messiah.
Gossip magazines and media are verbal pornographers and create voyeurs. They make money by exposing a juicy tidbit about a famous person, except unlike a Playboy model, the person is a victim, not a paid participant. It is not just public figures anymore who are victims of this type of media, though. Let an average person get involved in an unusual situation, and he will achieve instant fame in media, especially social media. What do you remember about them? Their nakedness. Guard even your Facebook page with diligence!
What will we remember about any political race? The
about the candidates? No, we remember the nakedness of the candidates, not the good plans or policies; the "news" outlets are the vendors of this pornography. It has become nothing more than a lifting of skirts, or to be more accurate, the unzipping of one another's pants. Do they write and broadcast it because America likes it, or because they intend to broadcast it until we like it? Politicians, their faithful disciples, and "news" media have defied all boundaries of respect taught in the Torah.
We, however, are not disciples of politicians, but of the Holy One of Israel, who did not hesitate to strike down Nadav and Avihu for violating the boundaries of spiritual authority.
At the time when the Holy One gave the sweet incense to Aaron, He wanted no one else to deal with this during his lifetime. Nadav and Avihu were overanxious to offer that which was not yet given to them, and this overeagerness, as well as possible intoxication, caused them to make a mistake by boldly offering a strange fire that resulted in their deaths. They were authorized for brazen and bold altar service, but not yet the Good Gold altar. It was through their father's work that they would have a share in Good Gold of the incense altar, even closer than the average Israelite, but they broke through the boundary of authority. Aaron performed the service for the glory of the Holy One and Israel; Nadab and Avihu performed it for self-gratification.
Nadab and Avihu spoiled the joy of the Holy Place, and especially their father Aaron. They were not yet appointed the task of offering the incense, which was specifically delegated to Aaron. The TIME was not proper for offering the incense, for it was not in the time of lighting the menorah; they hurried the time of inheriting the high priesthood while their father was still alive.
While Nadab and Avihu knew that spiritual authority rested on Moses and Aaron, they prematurely left their place of ministry among the Congregation of Israel. In their brazen bold immaturity, they neglected to follow the instructions, reinterpreting them to suit their timing, and the fire they offered from their own fires was "strange." The commandment was so beautiful that they were caught up in the emotion of it, disregarding the authority of it.
Had they been patient, they would have inherited the privileges of their father Aaron to offer the incense and would have learned the importance of following the instructions exactly, thus saving their lives. If the problem was intoxication, then there is our lesson, not simply in intoxication with alcohol, but in being intoxicated with our own counsel within a congregation.
Probably every Messianic fellowship or congregation has such a story of violation of spiritual boundaries within the Body. Some individual, or individuals, intoxicated with their newfound ability to research the Scripture and new knowledge, violate the time of the commandment. They do not consider the joy and health of the Body, which is destroyed by their self-gratifying versions of "correctness."
They may do the right thing out of time and out of order
. This is called "forcing the hour." Like Jacob, the Holy One leads his flock at a pace that will not kill the nursing children. This is not rebellion against certain commandments, but learning at a healthy pace and growing, discipleship. Like Aaron, congregational leaders may have the quality of chesed, mercy, which the violators misconstrue as weakness in leadership.
Spiritual incest is just as destructive to the spirit as physical incest is to the soul and body of a human being. The Torah urges us to guard the boundaries so that there will not be a portion of sadness and grief "after the death." Life and death are in the power of the tongue. Guard the eyes, the ears, and therefore, the tongue that are so easily violated by the nakedness of a strange fire called death. Choose the coverings of life, a holy tongue of fire speaking the holy Words of the Holy Spirit.