In the heart of Parashat K’doshim, we find a recipe for holiness written into behavior. Love your neighbor as yourself, leave gleanings for the poor, care for the stranger, protect the disabled. Many of these ethical epithets form the backbone of moral society, and resonate across religious and national lines. But the above verse feels oddly off: I pause seeing a positive command to rebuke as somehow linked to an absence of heartfelt hate.
The Eternal spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal your God, am holy. (Leviticus 19:1-2)
Parashat K'doshim places before us one of the most difficult commandments in the whole Torah. It's not kashrut or Shabbat, or even the rules of sexual conduct, but rather, the admonition and the expectation to "be holy." Throughout the Torah, we are given rules and statues that tell us what to do. Here are we told what to be. A similar statement is found in Exodus 19:6, where we are commanded to be a "kingdom of priests and a holy people." But what does it mean to be holy? The parashah does not define what holiness is, nor does it tell us what it means to be holy. The guidance it gives us is in the specifics: the who, when, why, and how of the injunction.
The word kadosh is usually translated as "holy," as in the Holy Land, the Holy of Holies, the Holy Ark, and the High Holy Days. Three times a day, in the K'dushah part of the Amidah, the standing prayer, we
In the democratic society of Israel, we with struggle the concept of what it means to be am chofshi b'artzeinu, "a free people in our land." We ask, "What does the responsibility of freedom require from us?" Every year, it
"Our treatment of [these] passages will assume that we have much to learn from the Torah, even though we do not accept its authority blindly and without question" (Bamberger in Plaut Revised Edition, 643). Learn more in Torah for Tweens!