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Parasha No. 30
Kedoshim: “Ye shall be holy”

Vayikra (Leviticus) 19, 1 - 29, 27


Jewish humanism is kedusha (holiness)

Plan

- Read the beginning of the parasha
- Themes and mitzvot
- The method of study needed in order to uncover the meaning of the text
- The hekhel
- Kedoshim
- Future and imperative
- Three types of holiness
- Analysis of each mitzva
- Integration: kedusha in our lives
- the vocabulary of kedusha

Listen to the parasha (Ort link)
(teanim Ashkenazim)


Listen tot he haftara (Ort link)
(teanim Ashkenazim)


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The beginning of the parasha

Transcription
vayedabber Hashem el Moseh lemor
dabber el kol adat bene Yisrael veamarta alehem kedoshim tihiyu
ki kadosh ani Hashem Elohekhem
ish immo veaviv tirau
veet shabetotai tishmoru
ani Hashem Elohekhem

Translation
And Hashem spoke unto Moshe saying:
speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel and say unto them: Ye shall be holy;
for I Hashem your God am holy.
Ye shall fear every man his mother and his father, and ye shall keep my shabbats:
I am Hashem your God

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Themes and mitzvot

This parasha is very short but contains 49 mitzvot (212 to 262).
Following the study method of the Shla, with which we are now becoming familiar, we must seek to identify the common point and the message they impart. We shall therefore examine their order, the way they are connected and their main content. Here are some of the mitzvot:

respect your mother and father (Vayikra 19,3),
the prohibition against idolatrous thoughts and against the construction of idols,
the prohibition against consumption of sacrificial remains at times other than those authorized (see also Shemot 29, 33-34),
the prohibition against reaping the corner of one's filed, vineyard (19, 9-10),
the obligation to care for the poor (19,10),
the prohibition against stealing, dealing falsely, profaning God's name, delaying the payment of wages, pronouncing unjust verdicts, slandering others, giving ill counsel, cursing, failing to give aid to victims or fellowmen in distress,
the obligation to rebuke a fellowmen (19,17), and to love every member of Israel like oneself (19,18),
the prohibition against taking vengeance (19, 18),
the prohibition against eating fruits less than five years'old, nor eat or drink with gluttony (19, 18-24),
the prohibition against practicing divination and soothsaying (19,26), against following customs connected with heathen worship and practice (20,23),
the obligation to honor the elderly (19,32),
the obligation to have correct scales (19,36) and to be honest and righteous in business.

All these precepts can be summarized in two commandments:
be holy, kedoshim,
do not live according to the laws and customs of other nations.

The overall meaning is that:
Jewish morality and ethics extend to every dimension of life: relationships, conduct, time and space,
the source of this humanistic code is in the Creator, in the fact that He is kadosh, holy.

This theme is developed in the haftara (Amos 9, 7-15 [for Ashkenazim], Ezekiel 20, 1-20 [for Sephardim]). Even though Jewish morality and humanism appears to be that which the world has adopted and similar to the code of human rights, it has nothing to do with modern humanism or how other nations define morality. This is because it stems solely from one source: the kedusha of He who is Kadosh, holy.
Those who wish to study further the meaning of these mitzvot should refer to Sefer Hamitzvot (30), to Tractate Avoda Zara by the Rambam (11,10), and to Tractate Yore Dea in the Shulkhan Arokh (178,1).

Method of study in order to understand the meaning of the text

After having identified the main thread, we now go to the second rule. In traditional Jewish study, the meaning of the Torah is discovered by examining the form of the text, then by asking questions (third rule).
When a Torah student (the viewer) has carried out these three rules, he will then be able to understand the commentaries and the teachings handed down since Moshe Rabbenu.

1. First observation of the text
As the Yalkut Shimoni points out, this is the only parasha which begins with a commandment to gather "all" the children of Israel. It was therefore read to all the people, what is called the hekhel. Rashi writes: "melammed sheneemera farasha zo bekhel, this verse teaches s that this chapter was read in a congregation." This is based on the Middrash Vayikra Rabba 24, 5.
The parasha indeed summarizes the ten commandments and the whole of the Torahs. Rashi states: "mipne she rov gufei tora teluyim ba, because most of the fundamental laws of the Torah depend on it."

2. Second observation of the text
The parasha begins with the commandment "ye shall be holy" - kedoshim, which is also its title. What does this mean?
Rashi, as always, will give us the answer and open up new horizons. He writes:
kedoshim tiyu (ye shall be holy);
hevu ferushim min haarayot…(abstain from prohibited sexual relations and sins),
she kol makom sheata motze geder erva, ata motse kedusha, (for in every place in the Torah where you find a barrier against unlawful sexual relations, you find "holiness, kedusha"). And he gives an example: "a prostitute or dishonored woman thou shalt not marry… I am Hashem who sanctifies you."

We learn from this that
holiness is not some vague moral or spiritual quality,
holiness is linked to strictly defined limits,
holiness demarcates what is pure from what is impure, particularly in sexual relations,
holiness is linked to the relationship between husband and wife.
The Shla writes that the preceding parasha constituted a warning against doing evil, while this parasha defines the limits one must adhere to in order to do good.

3. Third observation of the text
The parasha begins with the future tense (ye shall be holy, kedoshim tihiyu) instead of the imperative "be holy." In contrast, it ends (20,26) with an imperative: "be for me holy, viheyitem li kedoshim." The Sages deduce from these two tenses that by being holy and good in this world, we will attain holiness in the world above. This is the privilege of man, as opposed to other creatures and even the angels. Man participates in two worlds, and he has two crowns. He alone decides. The commentators attribute man's greatness in this respect to the fact that Israel existed before the creation of the world. This also explains Rashi's first commentary on the Torah which:
gives Israel a central place,
stresses that the land of Israel was given as an unconditional gift by God to the Jewish people.
it remains a gift even if other nations wish to possess it.
Indeed, writes the Shla, the first two letters of Israel (yud, shin) correspond to yesh, the emergence of a being. This is not a privilege: it is an obligation whose source is up High. This is why it is written: "be holy..for I am holy."
The emphasis is very important, for the Torah does not say "you are holy or the best" but "it is because I am holy that you are holy."

Three types of holiness
We can now understand why the Shla organizes the mitzvot of this parasha in categories, according to carnal, spatial and temporal holiness.
carnal holiness comprises everything that is physical, or related to the soul and the heart. "The duties of the heart" are described in Rabbenu Bahya's book hovot halevavot, which is studied particularly prior to the beginning of the year and in the period of self-examination which precedes Rosh Hashana. Physical and carnal holiness are very important in Judaism and relate to food, sexual relations, washing of hands and to how the skin is viewed, as light or as an armor.
spatial holiness relates to everything that takes place in the confines of the Temple and "before Hashem." It is Avraham who developed the concept of holy places.
temporal holiness is found in the concept of Shabbat, which is not just one of the days of the week. Indeed in Judaism, the days of the week do not have names of planets or gods as in many cultures (Tuesday = day of Tiw, the god of war; Wednesday = day of Woden, god of the ancient Germans; Saturday = day of Saturn), but are named instead by a number: the first day following the Sabbath, etc. Thus every day of the week is a co-participant in the holiness of Shabbat and should be lived as such. The Shla notes that the aim of "extra soul" (neshama yetera) which we acquire on Shabbat, is to help us during the rest of the week.

Analysis of each mitzva

Each mitzva in this parasha can now be reviewed, studied and understood according to these different perspectives.

We can see that the practice of holiness in daily life, as commanded in this parasha, is linked to the view of death as defined in the preceding parasha. Death is presented there as a process and a stage in human development. The fact that we live in two worlds simultaneously, whose invisible thread is kedusha, inspires us to live every aspect of our lives in holiness. This is why this parasha gives us so many examples and separates them in three categories of holiness: carnal, spatial and temporal.

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Personal integration exercises

1. Examine how you spend Shabbat and time and space are made holy on this day: through beautiful garments, holy conversation, reading of the Torah, etc.
2. How do we make our bodies holy, as individuals, as married couples and as members of a community?
3. Do the garments we wear symbolize the beauty of kedusha, or is their function simply utilitarian, a source of personal pleasure or a societal rule?
4. Do we define the spatial limitations of Shabbat in accordance with the view of kedusha as described in this parasha, which is to confine and protect the state of holiness?
5. Discuss the subject with others in order to formulate other questions pertaining to this parasha.
6. Then re-read the parasha.

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The vocabulary of kedusha

Now that we have studied the Jewish concept of humanism, and what defines a Jew, the Jewish nation, and the state of kedusha which characterizes it, we need to study the terms associated with holiness. These are terms which are very current among Jews and in Jewish study and prayer, but their meaning needs to be precisely understood.

1. Hakadosh barukh Hu, the Holy one blessed be He.
Kedosh Yisrael, Holy Israel.

2. Things that are holy
eretz hakodesh, the land of kedusha, the land of Israel
adamat hakodesh, the land of kedusha, the land of Israel
ir hakodesh, the city of kedusha, Jerusalem
har kakodesh, the mountain of kedusha, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
shabbat hakodesh, the sabbath of kedusha, Shabbat
aron hakodesh, the ark of kedusha, holy ark in which the Torah scrolls are placed
kodesh hakodashim, the heart of the sanctuary, the Holy of Holies
ruah hakodesh, the spirit of kedusha, the shekhina which inspires the prophets
britkodesh, the covenant of kedusha, circumcision which makes a Jew holy
heikhal hakodesh, the sanctuary of kedusha
bigde hakodesh, the garments of kedusha, those of the Cohen Gadol, the High Priest
zera hakodesh, the seed of kedusha, the sons of Israel, the Jewish people
am hakodesh, the people of kedusha, the children of Israel, the Jewish people
kehilat hakodesh, the congregation of kedusha, an assembly of Jews
yom kodesh, a day of kedusha, a festival day
divre kodesh, words of kedusha, words and sermons based on the Torah

3. People who become holy, by participation (kedoshim, plural)
Rabbenu hakadosh, the name given Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, who wrote the Mishna.
A kadosh, a tzaddik, a righteous man. One also says pe kadosh, a holy mouth.
Am kedoshim, the holy people, the Jewish people
kahal kadosh, a holy congregation, name given to a group of Jews who assemble together to study the Torah
mot kedoshim, a holy death
The word for kadosh in Arameic is kaddish, the name of the prayer for the dead.

4. The act of proclaiming holiness is kiddush
Kiddush Hashem, the death of a martyr
Kiddush levana, the blessing for the new moon; large letters are called otiot (letters) kiddush levana.
Kiddush hahodesh, blessing for the new month
Kiddush, blessing for wine on Shabbat or a festival day
Kiddushim or kiddushin, in the plural, expresses the height of holiness, the act of marriage.

5. The difference ben kodesh le hol, between what is holy and what is profane.


Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatsera and kedusha
Rabbi Abuhatsera gives us a global understanding of the Jewish concept of kedusha and helps us to integrate this concept in feelings, prayer and action.
From the moment he wakes up, man is vulnerable to the yetser hara (evil instinct) which propels him towards instant gratification,
but man also possesses an instinct which allows him to attain kedusha,
man must find a way of ignoring carnal urges,
This is possible, for several reasons;
Hashem is kadosh,
His holiness can reside in us if He wishes,
He gives us the strength to be kedoshim, holy, by acting on our nefesh, our ruah, and our neshama,
We are not alone in this task, which we are asked to do, for the shekhina (holy presence) accompanies us and leaves us if we are not holy,
We can only do this and assume the risks involved if we know how to recite the prayer of shaharit. Indeed, every detail of the prayer is constructed in such a way as to enable us to receive the divine light and rise from level to level. We can then raise worlds and it is as though God needed us in order to recreate the world every morning. Tradition audaciously says that it is as though we raise God Himself, as though we make Him holy. This is the first word in the kaddish prayer (yitkadesh). It is also said that in the process of attaining kedusha, a person always remains linked to his shoresh, his root but is not imprisoned by it. This should be the ideal state of the Jewish people
to be linked to the source of holiness,
to connect all aspects of life to holiness,
to never leave it, for ba kedusha, lo yordim be darga (from kedusha, one does not descend in level).

Commenting on Shemot 34,24, Rashi and the Sages teach us that when we attain kedusha, something extraordinary takes place,
we are able to define our borders and they are protected by the central nucleus of kedusha,
others no longer aspire to our land:
"For I will cast out nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders; neither shall any man covet thy land, when thou goest up to appear before Hashem thy God (bealotekha leraot et pnei-Hashem").
This is how we can find salvation.

We should reflect on these divine teachings handed down by Moshe to Yehoshua. Yehoshua believed in them fervently till the end of his life and it is said that when he took possession of the land with the Jewish people "all the people kept the Torah."
May we be inspired by his example
so that we will find our true source and unity under the one light of holiness, in the land which is the sanctuary of the divine presence in the midst of His people which He chose,
so that other nations will cease to covet the land of Israel and to attempt to expel the holy people from it,
so that we will halt moves by our people and leaders to truncate the Holy land and give up parts of the land in order to please other nations.

The guardian of Israel does not rest. He gave us the laws we need to attain happiness as individuals, as couples, as a people, as a nation, as a land and as a light unto nations.

None of this can be ensured by arms, warfare, political alliances or international treaties. We were given a strict set of laws to adhere to and numerous warnings, which so often proved (regretfully) to come true. We were given everything, including the ability to redirect the course of history. We have only one form of humanism and democracy, and that is kedusha.

We must study more. We must use every means possible to spread the word of the Torah and help and enlighten those who do not understand the holiness of the land and its people and those who support the process of self-destruction of the nation - a phenomenon which has characterized elements of the people ever since the episode of the twelve spies. Kedusha will only be achieved when there is social justice in Israel and when we truly believe in the words of the prayer calling for the gathering of the people in the land of Israel. Then the realization of God's promises to us will be possible.

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- Psychology and Repentance
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In french

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Dedication

Rav Professor
Yehoshua Rahamim Dufour
(Dipur, in hebrew)

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