Kedoshim – Rishon

Holy People, Batman!

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

This week’s parsha derives its name from G-d’s command that the Jews make themselves holy. The obligation to be holy is not unlike Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous definition of obscenity, “I know it when I see it.” One can’t really quantify what it means to be holy, but you know something unholy when you see it. Rashi tells us that it refers specifically to sexual matters. Not only is the command to be holy juxtaposed to the list of forbidden relationships, Rashi enumerates several examples of places where the term to be holy is used pertaining to sexual issues.

G-d reminds the Jews to respect their parents, adding that one must respectfully decline if a parent says to violate a law of the Torah. Yes, we must obey our parents, but both we and our parents must obey G-d.

G-d reiterates the prohibition on idolatry and that peace offerings must be brought voluntarily, as well as the two-day time limit for eating such sacrifices.

Next, G-d instructs the Jews to leave part of the crops for the poor. These include peah (an unharvested area) and leket (dropped stalks). Similarly, one should leave malformed and dropped grapes in his vineyard for the poor.

Among the other mitzvos stated or reiterated in this aliyah: not to steal or to deny a debt, not to lie or swear falsely, and not to withhold a person’s rightful wages. We are commanded not to curse someone, not even a deaf person, who won’t hear it to be offended. We’re not allowed to mislead or take advantage of people. G-d knows what’s what, so even if we “put one over” on others, we can’t pull the wool over His metaphorical eyes.

Download Audio File