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Acharei-Mot Kedoshim. Cultural Distancing. Should we Create Jewish Boundaries?

Our Parasha (or parshiot) introduce a concept of cultural differentiation – "Chukkat HaGoy - between Israel and the nations that surround us.

This legal principle has been at the center of many debates of Jewish law over time, from whether Jews are permitted to wear a doctors uniform, to the practice of men wearing a Kippa, the celebration of a Bat-Mitzva (which was seen as imitating Christian “Confirmation” ceremonies) or Jews celebrating New Years Eve. May rifles be fired as a salute at a military funeral? May Israel institute a "minute of silence" as a national memorial? Even the practice of placing flowers on a grave has been debated. The question was always whether Jews could adopt a behavior that was performed in wider society. Even today, some Ultra-orthodox Jews insist on speaking Yiddish and wearing distinctive clothing partly as an expression of this law.

We shall examine the origin and nature of this law, and its parameters

In our parasha, God warns Israel not to follow the practices of the nations among whom the nation of Israel reside:

“You shall not act in the practices (Heb. maaseh) of the land of Egypt where you dwelt, nor the practices (Heb. maaseh) of the land of Canaan to which I am taking you; nor shall you walk in their ordinances (Heb. chukot). My rules alone shall you observe, and faithfully follow My laws: I the Lord am your God.” (Lev 18:3-4 and see also 20:23)