Parasha Inspiration – Kedoshim

וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהוָֹ֖ה אֶל־משֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר: דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־כָּל־עֲדַ֧ת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֥ אֲלֵהֶ֖ם קְדשִׁ֣ים תִּֽהְי֑וּ כִּ֣י קָד֔וֹשׁ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֹ֥ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם: אִ֣ישׁ אִמּ֤וֹ וְאָבִיו֙ תִּירָ֔אוּ וְאֶת־שַׁבְּתֹתַ֖י תִּשְׁמֹ֑רוּ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֹ֥ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם: אַל־תִּפְנוּ֙ אֶל־הָ֣אֱלִילִ֔ם וֵֽאלֹהֵי֙ מַסֵּכָ֔ה לֹ֥א תַֽעֲשׂ֖וּ לָכֶ֑ם אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֹ֥ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם:

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy. Every man shall fear his mother and his father, and you shall observe My Sabbaths. I am the Lord, your God. You shall not turn to the worthless idols, nor shall you make molten deities for yourselves. I am the Lord, your God.

Leviticus 19:1-4

This week’s portion contains one of the most important commandments in all Torah. You shall be holy, for I am holy. What, precisely, does this mean? How can we be holy like Hashem is holy? What does Hashem mean when he says he is holy?

In Hebrew, the term holy, kadosh, has a very specific meaning. The connotation is separateness. We are to be holy, that is, separate, like Hashem is holy, separate. Just how is Hashem separate? Hashem is unlike any other being. Hashem is, by his very nature, different, separate. In order to be separate, like Hashem, we must work at it. It is not in our nature to be separate, but rather, it is in our nature to desire to be just like everyone else. This has been a fault in us throughout our history. From the golden calf through the violations of Torah today, our striving has not been to be separate, but rather to be like everyone else.

Instead, our striving should be not to be like everyone else. We should be separate. Hashem has provided us instructions on how to be separate. Our instructions, our Torah, instructs us on how to be separate, that is, holy for Hashem. As we follow Torah and obey Hashem’s commandments, we separate ourselves from the other nations. Our behavior becomes something that should be emulated by the other nations. Yeshua did this perfectly. We can look to his behavior, his following of Torah, and see what separateness, holiness, really means. The Messiah is our shining example of how to be holy. As we strive to act like Yeshua, we strive to follow Hashem’s commandments, Hashem’s Torah. As Yeshua was separate and distinctive, so we should try to be separate and distinctive, and be holy as Hashem is holy. Shabbat shalom.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.