Separateness and Holiness: Technology and Chukat Ha’Akum

There are a myriad of commandments in Aharei Mot Kedoshim, this week’s double Torah portion. As a collection these commandments set out a holiness code for what it means to be Jewish. At the end of we learn of the commandment of Chukat Ha’Akum prohibiting imitating Gentile manners in their dressings and practices. There we read:

You shall not follow the practices of the nation that I am driving out before you. For it is because they did all these things that I abhorred them (Leviticus 20:23)

This prohibition makes sense in my imagination of ancient tribalism, but modern life has created many dilemmas on what constitutes a violation. By design this commandment is relative to the environment in which we find ourselves.  Amidst this holiness code it seems like a clear drive for Kedusha, but less about holiness and more about separateness.

I was thinking about this challenging commandment when reading a New York Times article back in September 2017. In their article “In Amish Country, the Future Is Calling” 

Like our own, the Amish struggle with technology is an issue of Chukat Ha’Akum. Modernity and technology offer us both great things and pose real risks. Recently I had the opportunity to be at the Poeh Cultural Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico to learn from Stephen Tekaron-Hiarenkon Fadden, a gifted Native American educator. He wisely taught, “Don’t confuse communication technology with communication.” The answer cannot be to exclude technology completely or use it blindly.  The technology needs to serve the holy work of helping us communicate. We need to intentionally determine how we will preserve our Kedusha meaning both our separateness and our holiness. Ironically we have what to learn from our Amish and Native American brethren as to how to keep the prohibition of Chukat Ha’Akum .




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