Participants of the Bible Contest
Participants of the Bible ContestArutz Sheva

“Am Yisrael Chai” (The Nation of Israel Lives) is not just a song or a slogan. It’s our operating system. The opening verse of this week’s Torah portion explains what makes this system work: *“And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to the kohanim, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: Let none [of you] defile himself with the dead among his people.”*

Death is considered a form of defilement for kohanim. Therefore, they do not enter a cemetery and distance themselves from the body of a dead person. Our commentators explain that the kohen is the spiritual leader of the people, the educator of the general public. He teaches us not to immerse ourselves in a cult of death. We are to distance ourselves from the Egyptian culture in whose pyramids the mummified were interred instead of being buried in the ground. Similarly today we are fighting a cult that sanctifies death, where a terrorist is a “shahid,” a holy martyr. In contrast to our enemies, our spiritual teachers sanctify life. We need to act, to promote, to build, and to cleave to life.

Here are two examples from this week’s headlines that demonstrate this embrace of life: Hostage *Elma Avraham* was released from captivity in Gaza and after a long recovery, was able to cradle a new great-granddaughter in her arms. *Evyatar Bar-Gil* won the International Bible Contest; he held the Bible that his school principal, sergeant major Yossi Hershkovitz, who fell during the war, had given him. We fight against evil while pre-occupied with good. The message articulated at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion has stayed with us until today: The nation of Israel lives because it sanctifies life.