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Kedoshim 5784

May 5, 2024

Rabbi Geier


BS"D || Rabbi Geier

Kedoshim 5784

"And the Lord spoke to Moshe, saying..."

This is how Parashat Kedoshim begins, and one wonders, what new mitzvah will God and Moshe dictate? None of that happens; instead, God instructs Moshe to ask the congregation to be "holy" because He is "holy."

The word "holy" was usually translated as "saint," although generally, for our sages like Rashi, "holy" means something that is preserved from the rest, and that separation makes it "holy," different. (For example, we say in the Kabbalat Shabbat: "mekadesh
Shabbat," which could be understood as God sanctified the Sabbath or rather differentiated it from the rest of the days of the week and thus made it "holy").

In short, this parashah conveys a desire, an ideal of a people that God seeks to achieve. He asks them to have a virtue because He also possesses it, but attaining the degree of Kedushah (holiness) does not make us God.

Imagine standing in front of a mirror; there is an image of us, but it doesn't fully capture who we are. There is a significant difference between the image and us. In the mirror, our reflection lacks 100% of the image, and if we pay attention, everything overlaps in a single plane; there is no front and back in that image. When God asks us to be holy like Him, He asks us to be so on the human plane and not on the Divine one. This is evident from the text itself, as when it says that God is holy in Hebrew, the "O" is written complete with the letter "vav," whereas "Kedoshim" has the "O" written only as a dot, without the "vav." קדשים - קדוש

Here are listed certain laws that will be familiar to us because some are part of the Ten Commandments, and others have already been announced in previous chapters:

"Each of you must respect your mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am the Lord."

"Do not turn to idols or make metal gods for yourselves. I am the Lord your God."

"Do not steal. Do not deceive one another."

While these mitzvot belong to the Ten Commandments, there is a difference: the wording of these laws is in plural. This led our sages to understand that the mitzvot in general make a person upright, honest... what could be called a "tzadik," but the degree of "Kedoshim" is only achieved in community, as a people when we not only concern ourselves with our behavior but also are responsible and supportive of the behavior of others, so that by adding up, we achieve the plural of "holy," Kedoshim.

The parashah continues with a enumeration of mitzvot that range from how to perform a sacrifice, laws of agriculture, laws for interpersonal conduct, etc.

Among them, for example, in verse 9-10: When harvesting the land, the corners of the fields must not be harvested, nor may you gather any gleanings. "Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you."

In verse 12, it says: "Do not swear falsely by my name."

In verse 13, it says: "Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight."

In verse 14, it says: "Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind."

In verse 15, it says that we must not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

In verse 16, it says: "Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life."

In verse 17: "Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart."

Verse 32 says: "Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly."

Verse 33 says: "When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them."

Verse 36 says: "Use honest scales and honest weights...."

To summarize the parashah, we find verse 18: "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord."

The Midrash tells that once a man approached the sage Hillel and asked if he could grasp the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel replied that yes, he should simply learn the verse that says: "Love your neighbor as yourself...." - the rest, go and study it...

Finally, two considerations regarding the parashah:

The first: God asks the people to be holy, but that commandment does not appear as any particular mitzvah. This is because it is by fulfilling the precepts and being upright that the hierarchy of "Kedoshim" is achieved. In short, it is a process of human improvement when living in community and respecting the law, the Torah.

The second: when you read the Parashah, you will see that in the important laws, all end with the statement "I am the Lord." Some say that God signs these laws and that He actually lends us His signature with the intention that by complying with the mitzvot so often, it is as if we were copying His handwriting and signature, and that by copying it so much, our signature resembles His, and thus fulfilling His desire: Kedoshim tihiú ki Kadosh Ani Adonai Eloheichem.

May you be holy because I am holy, the Lord your God.

From the literal understanding of all these verses and clear mitzvoth, it follows that the community of the Children of Israel must be singular, different, distinguished, specific, and unique as the Eternal One is.

However, many of us, committed Jews to our roots, heirs of the children of Israel, by no means seek to shut ourselves off. Like everyone else, we need to feel belonging to the great family of humanity, and at the same time, we want to be different and are satisfied with being so, just as all people are proud of their particularities, and like all human beings, in all dimensions of their identity, aspire to achieve happiness by being who they are.

Kedoshim is perhaps a way of highlighting the importance that the celebration of diversity in human identity acquires. As members of the People who were at Sinai, we assume the commitment to transmit our spiritual heritage and our specificity to the great number of generations that will succeed ours.

This transmission should be characterized by an idea of progress, as we are heirs to a tradition that supports the idea that we are not in the world to sustain it and maintain it as it is and reproduce it identically, but to transform it, recreate it, and improve it through our actions.

May we continue with this sacred task, being different but integrated into a diverse world and a society that accepts and respects differences.

Next Sunday night and Monday, we commemorate Memorial Day for all those who lost their lives so that the State of Israel exists. Soldiers, civilians, children, young people, and adults who believed in a Jewish State where the People of Israel could live and develop in peace, exercising that diversity within the limits of the State, coexisting with different religions, ethnicities, and political representations.

Let us honor the memory of all those who made it possible for Israel to be a living and thriving reality from wherever they stood in Israeli society.

Am Israel Chai! The people of Israel live!

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