The New Shul

Parshat Aharei Mot

This week’s parashah, Aharei Mot, describes the service of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, on Yom Kippur in the days when the Temple stood. The parashah opens with God’s warning to Aaron and his sons not to enter the Holy of Holies except on that one day, and except with extraordinary preparation, because “in a cloud I appear [above the ark].”

Rabbi Meir Shapira of Lublin understood those words as a promise, not a warning. He interpreted them to mean that, even when the sky is at its cloudiest, God can still appear to us. Even when the world is at its darkest, God can still be found.

Today, the 27th of Nisan, is Yom Hashoah, the day on which we remember the victims of the Holocaust. One of the most important ways in which we honor them is by recalling that so many of them refused to surrender their humanity even under the most dehumanizing circumstances. Only a small number had the means to resist physically, but a much greater number resisted spiritually. They did so by refusing to give up their dignity as human beings, and their compassion for each other, even as they lost control of everything else. They refused to let the darkness around them obscure their tzelem elohim, the image of God that they embodied. In that way they exemplified what Rabbi Meir Shapira taught: that God’s presence can be visible even in the darkest cloud.

Last Shabbat in Poway California, when, in the face of ultimate hatred, Lori Gilbert-Kaye gave up her life to save another’s, she exemplified the same teaching. May her memory be a blessing.

  • The New Shul’s Shabbat services are on Friday evenings from 6 to 7 pm, and on Saturday mornings from 9 am to 12 noon. The kiddush-lunch this Shabbat, May 4, will be sponsored by Millie and Cosmo Bucci in honor of Geno’s 4th birthday.
  • Childcare is available on Shabbat mornings from 10 am to noon.
  • Minyanim during the week are on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am, and on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7 pm.