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Saturday 11th May 2024     18th Day of the Omer           3rd Iyar 5784

PARASHAT KEDOSHIM                            

Herschel Raysman, Beit Ariel

Leviticus 19:1-20:27; Amos 9:7-15; Mark 12L28-34


Last Shabbat, we read from Parashat Acharei Mot which was addressed to Aaron and his sons and dealt chiefly with the protocols necessary for the Yom Kippur rituals that the priests conducted in the Tabernacle.


In contrast, our parasha this Shabbat called Kedoshim – holiness - is addressed to Kol adat B’nei Yisrael – the entire assembly of the children of Israel, which is a rare form of address.


Usually, HaShem spoke to Moses who then transmitted the instructions to the target audience which were the priests, or the Levites or the Israelites. However, when necessary, Moshe would teach the instructions to all of the Israelites as one entity. This form of address is unusual. It is found in Exodus 12:3 concerning the instructions for the Passover lamb or when Moshe taught the words of a specific song to the whole congregation of Israel as recorded in Devarim 31:19-22. Because it is unusual, we should pay special attention to it.


Lev 19:1-2

1          And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

2          "Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: 'You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.


Moses assembled the entire nation and taught this chapter to everyone because most the Torah's essential laws are contained here. However, many of the laws in our Torah portion appear to be rather old-fashioned for our modern world, and although some of the mitzvot are directed specifically to the Tabernacle service, we tend to relegate these laws as having little value to us modern and worldly people.


With this attitude, we miss some of the clearest ethical values that provide guidance and direction in all ages and in all times. By neglecting these kingdom values, we metaphorically throw the baby out with the bath water. Before we examine Leviticus 19 in a little more detail, let’s first reflect on the call to holy living!




What we deduce is that holiness looks different from what we think it should be. The essential laws on the sanctity of the Sabbath, reverence for parents, the prohibitions against stealing and taking revenge or bearing grudges, and the commandment to love one's fellows. And what about respecting and honouring a grey-haired and bearded person?


We must never underestimate or in any way diminish the requirements of so high a calling! The FFOZ commentary commences by saying that “The rituals of Yom Kippur teach us about the distance between man and God.” And, we know that distance is sin! It is sin that is a barrier between us and our God. The FFOZ commentary went on to say the following:


“There is a deadly conceit in the heart of man. It is the idea that ‘I’m generally a fairly decent person. And therefore, God is not really that upset with my lapses in sin. The Bible teaches us that God cannot abide sin and that “all fall short of the glory of God ( ). Our sin is as filthy rags before the Almighty. Shame and disgrace should cover us every time we open our bibles. We have sullied the very parchment of Torah with our sins and trodden on the shed blood of Messiah. Our most worthy of our good deeds are utterly eclipsed by our transgressions and sins”.


Jeremiah 17: 9, 13-14

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and incurable—who can know it? I Adonai search the heart, I try the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.

Adonai, You are the hope of Israel! All who forsake You will be ashamed.Those who depart from You will be written in the dirt, for they have forsaken Adonai, the fountain of living waters. Heal me, Adonai, and I will be healed.Save me, and I will be saved.


2 Corinthians 5:10

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, so that each one may receive what is due for the things he did while in the body—whether good or bad..


The call to holiness is the essence of the Gospel message.

Yes, we are invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb

but,  the Bride prepared herself for this encounter!

And that preparation includes dying to self and being willing to bear our own execution stakes.

This is the cost involved in the call to holiness!


Now, Judaism teaches that it is by doing the mitzvot that we become a holy people. We tend to think that spending more time in prayer, attending more religious meetings, and spending more time reading and studying the Scriptures. All these activities contribute towards us becoming a mature people.

And yet, while these practices are an essential component of our faith journeys, it is the DOING of the mitzvot is the unlocks the door to our sanctification.


We can deliberate and study God’s instructions but they will always remain an intellectual pursuit until and unless we DO them! It is in the doing that we work out our salvation in fear and trembling!


And so, from the first sentence in our Torah portion, we notice that the call to holiness is not reserved for the professionals, the Levites or the Priests. The theme of holiness pervades the entire parasha and in fact, the whole book of Leviticus. Let me repeat. It is in the doing of the commandments, that holiness becomes indelibly imprinted upon our soul.


HaShem alone is our sanctifier by His Spirit and yet simultaneously, by doing the mitzvoth, we are sanctified. It is a conundrum, a chok. The solution is found in the oft-repeated phrase ‘who has sanctified us by His commandments,’ which is found in most of the blessings we recite.


For example, when a male dons the tallit, he chants: ‘Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech haOlam, asher kidushanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu, lehitateif betzitzit’. ‘Blessed are you, O G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by Your commandments and instructed us to don the fringes’.


What we discover is that holiness looks different from what we originally thought. Therefore, our understanding of what holiness looks like needs to be broadened to encompass the things listed in chapter 19 and here is a list in bullet form of what holiness looks like.


  • our attitude toward our parents. If we struggle to honour them, how can we honour HaShem?

  • keeping the Shabbat (the 7th day of the week)

  • turning away from idolatry in all its tempting manifestations

  • to worship God in spirit and in truth

  • in agriculture, not reaping your harvest at the edge of the field to provide for the poor and the less fortunate in our midst

  • in our interpersonal relationships, we consider others better than ourselves. We do so by giving them the benefit of the doubt

  • dealing appropriately and honourably with our neighbour

  • not putting a stumbling block before a disadvantaged person

  • being integrous in our business dealings,

  • being generous and kind in the way we treat the poor,

  • in the way we treat the disadvantaged, the blind and the elderly.

  • To honour justice as a kingdom value  

  • To not commit sexual sin which includes the marriage covenant

  • Not cursing a deaf person nor causing a blind person to stumble.


The list is all-encompassing and involves every facet of life. And, just so that we get it, again and again, we see the Father’s signature attached to every instruction listed here: “Ani Adonai – I am the LORD”.


But, what about sowing 2 different kinds of seeds in 1 field? What has that to do with holy living? Or, what about the instruction not to wear clothing made from two different materials? What has this to do with kedusha? These seem trivial to us who live in this modern, hi-tech world.


What we need to grasp is that these are the Father’s standard for righteous living and therefore, we need to recalibrate        our thinking about holiness and get our minds              sufficiently renewed to recognize this.

He alone sets the standards for holy living!


A guiding principle is that the call to holiness has more to do with honouring G-d than trying to achieve a specific objective that will make us feel better about ourselves. Holiness and holy living have nothing to do with self or self-achievement. It is all about G-d!


Something that is common to the call to kedusha, to holy living, is the call to love and respect others. The medieval sage RAMBAN (Nachmanides) interprets this high call to BE LOVING!


Be loving toward your neighbour. Be loving toward the stranger in your midst. Be loving toward others. Be loving toward the disabled and the disadvantaged in your midst. Remember that you were once aliens and slaves in Egypt! BE LOVING! And, importantly, be loving toward yourself!


It is difficult enough to be loving toward someone you like but, what about those who have done or said something that offends you? The call to be loving to others although demanding, is one of the paving stones of the narrow way!




The sages suggest that the call to be loving requires a fundamental shift in our attitude from the realm of emotions to the realm of activity! The command to be loving to your neighbour is driven by and through our actions.  We demonstrate our love for and fear of G-d through our actions, rather than through our words!


Shabbat shalom


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