Acharei Mot-Kedoshim; Holiness today?

The framework for Parashat Kedoshim is the link  “Be Holy,for I your G-d am Holy” and it applies to the “entire assembly of the children of Israel”.  Every person was called upon to work towards this ideal to the best of their means and abilities.   R’ Munk wrote that the ultimate goal of holiness can be achieved only through the collective efforts of the whole nation.  The majority of the basic laws of the Torah depend on the participation of the community.  Examples are the gatherings on the chagim and the duties of social welfare.


R’ Munk wrote that man is perfectable because G-d his creator is perfect.   G-d is holy in the absolute but mankind, bound to the earth, can only achieve a relative degree of holiness. When referring to G-d,”kadosh” is written in full (with the vav) but when referring to man “kadosh” is written without the vav.


R’ SR Hirsch explained that respect for parents and observance of the Shabbat are two critical factors in training a person for a life of holiness.  Linked to this instruction is “I am your Lord,G-d” and so it is with all the subsequent requirements.  The command to leave the gleanings of the field, and the fallen fruit of the vineyard is followed by “I am the Lord,your G-d”. ”Do not steal, do not deny falsely, and do not lie to one another, do not swear falsely by My Name,thereby desecrating the Name of your G-d- I am G-d”.  This pattern is repeated over and over, making it clear that  the laws should be kept because of the link with the divine.


Another example is “you should love your neighbour as yourself- I am the Lord”.  R’ Munk explained that the love of man for himself cannot be the criterion of his love for others. That argument would allow someone to heap abuse on his neighbour as long as he does not mind taking abuse himself. The way this is structured means that any offense we give our fellow man is an affront to G-d.  Further clarification was given by R’ SR Hirsch who wrote that the text  as explained by Ramban, makes it clear that the requirement is to respect what pertains to the neighbour, his possessions, his legitimate rights and personal interests, and not necessarily to love his personality. Although all, these decrees make sense, and would lead to a better, healthier society.  They are to be kept because of the link to the divine and not for their own sake.


Towards the end of this parasha, after the listing of the forbidden relationships, it is written “Observe all My decrees and all My ordinances and perform them; then the land to which I bring you to dwell will not vomit you out.  Do not follow the traditions of those that I expel from before you, for they did all of these things and I was disgusted with them. So I said to you : You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to inherit it, a land flowing with milk and honey – I am the Lord, your G-d who has separated you from the peoples. The word “hivdalti” could also mean to “make you different”.


The challenge for Jews is to accept this difference and make it meaningful, and the challenges for the people of Israel are also provided.  

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