Acharei Mot begins by referencing the death of Aaron’s two sons who came too close to God’s presence. I’ve struggled with this moment in the Torah because it seems to suggest that only certain people can enter such a holy place. However the parsha continues with instructions for Aaron about how to prepare himself to come before God and atone for the people’s sins:
“And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to your brother Aaron, that he should not come at all times into the Holy… He shall wear a holy linen shirt and linen pants shall be upon his flesh, and he shall gird himself with a linen sash and wear a linen cap. These are holy garments.”
Aaron was instructed only to enter the most holy area when he is fully prepared. In this light, perhaps the story of Aaron’s sons is not highlighting specific people that can or can’t enter a holy place, but how we might need to prepare ourselves before being fully ready to experience and contribute to whatever is before us. In Aaron’s case, he prepares by putting on specific clothing, however often the physical can be representative of the intangible ways we might ready ourselves.
Mental preparation in particular is one of those ways. The attitude we bring into any situation has a huge impact on how we and others experience it – whether we’re about to do something completely new and want to start with an open mind, we’re getting ready to learn and are striving to focus, or we are simply spending time with friends and want to bring a positive attitude. In each case being intentional about how we prepare mentally can allow each of us to more fully experience something, and can help those around us feel more welcome, engaged, or inspired as well.
As we think towards the kayitz in just a few months, I encourage everyone to think about how we might be like Aaron and prepare ourselves for entering our holy kehillah. Much of the preparation may surround packing and getting ready physically by throwing that favorite pair of sandals or tennis racket into our bags. However let’s think about those intangibles we want to bring to camp as well – an open mind, a welcoming attitude, or maybe a passion to share with others – that will help make this a truly incredible kayitz together. Shabbat Shalom!