Marc Chagall

2024-05-11 - Parashah Kedoshim - "Holy Ones"

Torah: Vayikra 19:1 – 20:27; Haftarah: Amos 9:7-15


This Parashah begins and ends with the most fundamental concept in the Jewish religion – God is Holy and it is possible for men to be holy by emulating, by imitating, God’s Holiness, and we emulate God’s Holiness by obeying His commandments: “The LORD spoke to Moshe, saying, ‘Speak to the entire assembly of the people of Israel, and say to them, “You shall be holy; for I, the LORD your God, am Holy. You shall revere every man his mother and his father, and you shall observe My Shabbats; I am the LORD your God.”’” Vayikra 19:1-2

Rav Shaul, an observant Jewish man, is reiterating this concept by speaking to us through ages of Jewish wisdom when he says: “Whether you eat or you drink or whatever you do, do all things to the glory of the LORD. Give no offense both to Yehudim and to Hellenes or to the Kehillah of the LORD, even as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, that they may be saved. Become imitators of me as I also am an imitator of Moshiach.” The apostle tells us to be imitators of Messiah who is merciful, gracious, loving and long-suffering.

But the first enduring value that the LORD tells us in the beginning of this Parashah is that holiness begins at home. Respect and reverence to parents supersedes all other commandments. When people honor their parents, God regards it as if they honor Him, and the reverse is true. Disrespect for God starts with showing disrespect for parents. But, if we do honor God, we show it by honoring and keeping His commandments.

One such commandments is the Shema: "Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad" or "Hear O Israel, the LORD our God. The LORD is One." Even though the Shema seems to us to be more of a declaration of faith and not a commandment, our Messiah tells us that it is a commandment: "And one of the Sofrim (Scribes) approached and heard them debating, and seeing that Yeshua answered them well, asked Him, 'Which commandment is first of all the commandments?' Yeshua answered, 'The first of all the commandments is, SHEMA YISRAEL ADONAY ELOHEINU ADONAY ECHAD.'" (Mark 12:28-29). He is clearly establishing that our first responsibility to God, is to sanctify His Name in this world. To proclaim that there is one and only one who is holy. Holiness, in Hebrew 'Kadosh,' is the word that designates sanctification. We are to sanctify, to set apart, God from everything and everyone else. He is Holy and He is the only One who is Holy, and other persons, places or things are only holy as He has touched them, choosing them for His service. We are commanded by Yeshua to recite the Shema, and, in doing so, to declare God’s holiness.

Therefore, holiness is not an abstract or a mystic idea, but a regulative principle in our everyday lives, because the Hebrew word ‘Kadosh’ also connotes separation. We are to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, we are to separate from sin. But God did not leave it up to our imagination of what it means to be holy; He gave us specific instructions. He begins with the instruction to observe His Shabbats, plural, because it includes the Holy Days which we are to observe as reminders to our sinful nature and the redemptive plan of God laid-out through the symbolism of these days. The observance of Shabbat is a marker for our compassion towards our fellow human being as well as to nature, for it, too, testifies that God is the Creator and the Master of the universe. The observance of Shabbat is a marker for our spiritual growth.

Our holiness begins by understanding the fundamental principles of His commandments and we should pay attention to His commandments for the simple reason given here that He is our God. The expression “I am the LORD your God” is repeated in this Parashah 18 times. Therefore, this Parashah must contain important instructions that we should pay attention to.

— We are not to turn to idols, or to foreign gods, because our God is the LORD — He is the only God and He should be at the center of everything that we do.
— We are not to be self-centered, but to give a portion from our labor to the poor, the widow and the orphan, because our God is the LORD — He is the provider of all our needs.
— We are not to steal, because our God is the LORD.
— We are not to lie to one another because our God is the LORD — He is the truth.
— We are not to desecrate His name, because our God is the LORD — He is God Almighty.
— We are not to cheat and deny a worker’s wage even to an alien who does not correctly understand our language, because our God is the LORD.
— We are not to show disrespect for His creation, curse and make fun of the deaf even as he cannot hear us, because our God is the LORD — He created all for our correction.
— We are not to show disrespect for His creation and put a stumbling block before the blind and make fun of him even as he cannot see us, because our God is the LORD.
— We are not to be partial to the poor or to the rich but make righteous judgments, because our God is the LORD — He is the true Judge.
— We are not to gossip, to spread words and stories which we are not sure of their truthfulness, because our God is the LORD.
— We are not to be indifferent to other people’s problems and stand aside while a crime is being committed, because our God is the LORD.
— We should not hate but love, we should not take revenge or bear a grudge, because our God is the LORD.
— We should not be involved with sorcerers and believe in luck or lucky times, because our God is the LORD who takes care of us.
— We should honor the presence of a sage and we should rise in the presence of an old person, because our God is the LORD.

As believers, all these commandments should be a manifestation of our new nature in Messiah, because we should live our life as in His presence. If we love our God we should do what He asked us to do, for He concludes “You shall be holy for Me, for I, the LORD, am Holy.”

Shabbat joy, peace, and blessings! Shabbat Shalom!

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