Shabbat Parshat Kedoshim - 5760
Between Pesach and Shavuot
Parshat Kedoshim is that Parshah in the Torah that most emphatically
demands behavior and thought patterns from the Jewish People that express a
spirit of holiness. "Kedoshim
," "You shall be holy
" (Vayikra 19:2).
The great Holiday of Pesach represents the physical birth of that nation which was called forth into history to be a "Mamlechet Kohanim V'Goy Kadosh," "a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation." Forged in the "iron crucible" of Egypt, this People was taught in their bodies the debased and powerless feelings of the slave, the classic "underdog." The People of Israel was required to become the champion among the nations of the "underdog" in all of his manifestations.
Parshat Kedoshim demands that the Jewish People emulate Hashem.
The Torah commands "You shall be holy."
The Jew asks, "Why should I be holy?"
The Torah responds, "for I, Hashem, your Master, am holy!"
We learn in Megilat Kohelet, recited on Shabbat Chol HaMoed of Sukkot,
that essential feature of Hashem's interaction with the world, "E-lohim
yevakesh et nirdaf," "Hashem is on the side of the pursued."
In Judaism, "might is right" is the
opposite of holiness!
This People would experience the awesome Revelation of Hashem at Mt.
Sinai on the Holiday of Shavuot.
It would learn again first-hand that the Creator of the Universe did
indeed care about His Creation, that He had a moral
agenda for it, that alone
justified its existence. Physical
freedom alone is not enough. Spiritual
freedom is the essential feature
of a justified world.
Three hundred sixty five prohibitions and two hundred forty eight
positive commands were and are required to establish the fact that the
Jewish people no longer serves a
human being, whatever the current newsreel shows, and that the
institution of slavery is abhorrent to Judaism, but rather, they are the
servants of Almighty G-d, the Creator of the Universe with a word.
Hashem, despite His unimaginable greatness, as it were, remains
"hidden among the vessels," (Shmuel 1, 10:22) and only "peeks
from between the shutters" (Shir HaShirim, 2:9), unwilling to impose
his will upon Man, allowing him free will, but reminding him gently of his
Many of the commands in Parshat Kedoshim illustrate this principle; here
are three examples:
Vayikra 19:14 - "You shall not curse the deaf, and before the blind
you shall not place an obstacle; And you shall fear your Master; I am Hashem,"
where the concept of "placing an obstacle before the blind" has
been enlarged to include any kind of obstacle, such as bad advice, before
Vayikra 19:32 - "You shall stand up in the presence of the elderly
(literally, those with white hair), and you shall respect the elderly."
The concept of "elderly" as used in the Chumash refers not
only to those advanced in years but to those advanced in Torah knowledge.
Vayikra 19:32-34 - "When a stranger lives in your midst, do not
oppress him! Rather, treat the
stranger as a full-fledged citizen. And
you shall love him as yourself,
for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
The loving treatment of the stranger is stated in the Torah 36
Since the requirement upon the Jewish People to be holy is based upon
its emulation of G-d, and also as a reminder that Hashem is a silent witness
of all of a person's actions, the phrase "I am Hashem," or words
to that effect, occur in the Parshah 20
That a Jew must remake himself in the "in the image of G-d" is
communicated by the verse in Vayikra 20:7, "Make yourselves holy and be holy, for I am Hashem your G-d!"
The idea of "Atah Bechartanu," that "You have chosen the
People of Israel" to be the teacher of and the conduit of holiness into
the world, is a central theme of all the three "Regalim," the
Pilgrim Festivals. It marks the
beginning point, the Exodus, of
our national, collective relationship with Hashem.
It marks the defining point
of our relationship, based on subscribing to the Covenant of the Torah.
And it shows Hashem's faithfulness to us, when we commemorate on Sukkot the way He led us
through the desert, with His Clouds of Glory and seated in our Sukkah
shelters. That this special quality of our Love is desired by the Master of
the Universe is stressed in the next-to-last verse in the Parshah (Vayikra
20:26), "And you shall be holy, for I, Hashem, am holy, and I have separated you from the nations to be mine."
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU