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Parashat Kedoshim

Parashat Kedoshim - Leviticus 19:1-20:27

The Parshah of Kedoshim begins with the statement: "You shall be holy, for I, the L rd your G d, am holy." This is followed by dozens of mitzvot (Divine commandments) through which the Jew sanctifies him- or herself and relates to the holiness of G d.

These include: the prohibition against idolatry, the mitzvah of charity, the principle of equality before the law, Shabbat, sexual morality, honesty in business, honor and awe of one's parents, and the sacredness of life.

Also in Kedoshim is the dictum which the great sage Rabbi Akiva called a cardinal principle of Torah, and of which Hillel said, This is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary" - Love your fellow as yourself.

Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: You shall be holy... (Leviticus 19:2)

 What is meant by being "holy?" It goes beyond "not breaking the commandments." In fact, it is taught that it is possible for someone to live a very "un-holy" life without really breaking any of the commandments. For example, if someone sat home every day and stuffed themselves with kosher food, they are not technically breaking a commandment. However, is that he lifestyle the Torah points us to? Is this "holy" behavior? No. Rather, "holy" means to take the physical aspects of life and elevate them in order to achieve a harmony with the spiritual aspect. 

In Leviticus 19:2-3 G-d says, "You shall be holy since I, G-d, Your Lord, am holy. Every man should revere his mother and his father and you should observe my Sabbaths. I am G-d, your Lord". Why does G-d command us to be holy and then list dozens of commandments in order to achieve this goal? What us He telling us about being a "hearer and doer" of the Torah? 

Although I have commanded you to fear your father, if he tells you to violate the Shabbat--or to transgress any other mitzvah--do not heed him; for "I am G-d your G-d"--both you and your father are obligated to honor Me. ((Rashi; Talmud)
Evil talk kills three people: the speaker, the listener, and the one who is spoken of. (Talmud, Erachin 15a) 
The speaker obviously commits a grave sin by speaking negatively of his fellow. The listener, too, is a partner to this evil. But why is the one who is spoken of affected by their deed? Are his negative traits worsened by the fact that they are spoken of?
Indeed they are. A person may possess an evil trait or tendency, but his quintessential goodness, intrinsic to every soul, strives to control it, conquer it, and ultimately eradicate its negative expressions and redirect it as a positive force. But when this evil is spoken of, it is made that much more manifest and real. By speaking negatively of the person's trait or deed, the evilspeakers are, in effect, defining it as such; with their words, they grant substance and validity to its negative potential.
But the same applies in the reverse: speaking favorably of another, accentuating his or her positive side, will aid him to realize himself in the manner that you have defined him.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
You shall not stand by your fellow's blood (19:16)
From where do we know that if one sees his fellow drowning in a river, being dragged off by a wild animal or attacked by robbers, that one is obligated to save him? From the verse, "You shall not stand by your fellow's blood." (Talmud)
You shall not hate your brother in your heart; rebuke, rebuke your fellow, but do not incur a sin on his account (19:17)
If a person is wronged by another, he should not hate him and remain silent, as is said in regard to the wicked, "And Absalom did not speak to Amnon, neither good nor evil, for Absalom hated Amnon" (II Samuel 13:22). Rather, it is a mitzvah for him to make this known to him, and say to him, "Why did you do this-and-this to me? Why did you offend me in this way?", as it is written: "Rebuke, rebuke your fellow." And if that person expresses regret and asks him for forgiveness, he should forgive him...
One who sees that his fellow has sinned, or is following an improper path, it is a mitzvah to bring him back to the proper path and to inform him that he sins by his bad actions, as it is written: "Rebuke, rebuke your fellow."
When one rebukes one's fellow, whether it is regarding matters between the two of them or regarding matters between that person and G-d, he should rebuke him in private. He should speak to him gently and softly, and should tell him that he is doing this for his own good, so that he may merit the World to Come.
If that person accepts [the rebuke], good; if not, he should rebuke him a second time and a third time. He should continue to rebuke him to the point that the sinner strikes him and says to him, "I refuse to listen."
Whoever has the ability to rebuke and does not do so shares in the guilt for the sin, since he could have prevented it...
One who is wronged by his fellow but does not desire to rebuke him or speak to him about it at all because the offender is a very coarse person, or a disturbed person, but chooses instead to forgive him in his heart, bearing him no grudge nor rebuking him, this is the manner of the pious. The Torah's objection [to remaining silent] is only when he harbors animosity.
Our sages have said: "Words that come from the heart, enter the heart." It therefore follows that if you seek to correct a failing of your fellow and are unsuccessful, the fault lies not with him, but with yourself. Had you truly been sincere, your words would certainly have had an effect.
Love your fellow as yourself (19:18)
Rabbi Akiva said: This is a cardinal principle of the Torah.
The explanation can be found in the answer to another question: How is it possible to love another "as yourself"? Are not self and fellow two distinct entities, so that however closely they may be bound, the other will always be other, and never wholly as the self?
As physical beings, one's self and one's fellow are indeed two distinct entities. As spiritual beings, however, they are ultimately one, for all souls are of a single essence, united in their source in G-d. As long as one regards the physical self as the true "I" and the soul as something this I "has", one will never truly love the other "as oneself." But if the soul is the "I" and the body but its tool and extension, one can come to recognize that "self" and "fellow" are but two expressions of a singular essence, so that all that one desires for oneself, one equally desires for one's fellow.
Consider these concepts:
What lesson can we learn from a law that appears to apply only to the High Priest? Kedoshim, the second Torah portion read on this Sabbath, begins with G-d telling the Jewish people that they are to be holy, "for I, G-d their Lord, am Holy." The verse informs us that a Jews sanctity can be of such magnitude that it comes to resemble G-ds. So it is that, before giving the Torah, G-d tells the Jewish people: "You shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." In other words, every Jew has the capacity to reach the lofty level of a "High Priest," with the same measure of love for G-d as Aharon and his sons displayed. ... Mans potential for sanctification is such that it even bears a degree of comparison to Gods. The very end of Kedoshim (20: 22-26) explains the concept of holiness as the means for being separate from the other nations. Three basic formats for holiness exist: Time, place, and person. The ultimate integration of the three is found in the person of the High Priest entering the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. ... Because a person possesses an "actual part of G-d" within his being, it is possible for him to appreciate and express holiness on all levels, even within the confines of material existence. Moreover, this inner potential drives every individual to continually seek higher rungs of holiness. Just as G-d is unbounded, transcending all levels, so too, every person can ascend to ever-more-refined and elevated levels.
 friends,
This week Parashat Kedoshim - Leviticus 19:120:27
Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem!
The Parshah of Kedoshim begins with the statement: You shall be holy, for I, the L rd your G d, am holy. This is followed by dozens of mitzvot (Divine commandments) through which the Jew sanctifies him- or herself and relates to the holiness of G d.
These include: the prohibition against idolatry, the mitzvah of charity, the principle of equality before the law, Shabbat, sexual morality, honesty in business, honor and awe of ones parents, and the sacredness of life.
Also in Kedoshim is the dictum which the great sage Rabbi Akiva called a cardinal principle of Torah, and of which Hillel said, This is the entire Torah, the rest is commentaryLove your fellow as yourself.
Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: You shall be holy... (Leviticus 19:2)
 What is meant by being "holy?" It goes beyond "not breaking the commandments." In fact, it is taught that it is possible for someone to live a very "un-holy" life without really breaking any of the commandments. For example, if someone sat home every day and stuffed themselves with kosher food, they are not technically breaking a commandment. However, is that he lifestyle the Torah points us to? Is this "holy" behavior? No. Rather, "holy" means to take the physical aspects of life and elevate them in order to achieve a harmony with the spiritual aspect. 
In Leviticus 19:2-3 G-d says, "You shall be holy since I, G-d, Your Lord, am holy. Every man should revere his mother and his father and you should observe my Sabbaths. I am G-d, your Lord". Why does G-d command us to be holy and then list dozens of commandments in order to achieve this goal? What us He telling us about being a "hearer and doer" of the Torah? 
Although I have commanded you to fear your father, if he tells you to violate the Shabbat--or to transgress any other mitzvah--do not heed him; for "I am G-d your G-d"--both you and your father are obligated to honor Me. ((Rashi; Talmud)
Evil talk kills three people: the speaker, the listener, and the one who is spoken of. (Talmud, Erachin 15a) 
The speaker obviously commits a grave sin by speaking negatively of his fellow. The listener, too, is a partner to this evil. But why is the one who is spoken of affected by their deed? Are his negative traits worsened by the fact that they are spoken of?
Indeed they are. A person may possess an evil trait or tendency, but his quintessential goodness, intrinsic to every soul, strives to control it, conquer it, and ultimately eradicate its negative expressions and redirect it as a positive force. But when this evil is spoken of, it is made that much more manifest and real. By speaking negatively of the person's trait or deed, the evilspeakers are, in effect, defining it as such; with their words, they grant substance and validity to its negative potential.
But the same applies in the reverse: speaking favorably of another, accentuating his or her positive side, will aid him to realize himself in the manner that you have defined him.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
You shall not stand by your fellow's blood (19:16)
From where do we know that if one sees his fellow drowning in a river, being dragged off by a wild animal or attacked by robbers, that one is obligated to save him? From the verse, "You shall not stand by your fellow's blood." (Talmud)
You shall not hate your brother in your heart; rebuke, rebuke your fellow, but do not incur a sin on his account (19:17)
If a person is wronged by another, he should not hate him and remain silent, as is said in regard to the wicked, "And Absalom did not speak to Amnon, neither good nor evil, for Absalom hated Amnon" (II Samuel 13:22). Rather, it is a mitzvah for him to make this known to him, and say to him, "Why did you do this-and-this to me? Why did you offend me in this way?", as it is written: "Rebuke, rebuke your fellow." And if that person expresses regret and asks him for forgiveness, he should forgive him...
One who sees that his fellow has sinned, or is following an improper path, it is a mitzvah to bring him back to the proper path and to inform him that he sins by his bad actions, as it is written: "Rebuke, rebuke your fellow."
When one rebukes one's fellow, whether it is regarding matters between the two of them or regarding matters between that person and G-d, he should rebuke him in private. He should speak to him gently and softly, and should tell him that he is doing this for his own good, so that he may merit the World to Come.
If that person accepts [the rebuke], good; if not, he should rebuke him a second time and a third time. He should continue to rebuke him to the point that the sinner strikes him and says to him, "I refuse to listen."
Whoever has the ability to rebuke and does not do so shares in the guilt for the sin, since he could have prevented it...
One who is wronged by his fellow but does not desire to rebuke him or speak to him about it at all because the offender is a very coarse person, or a disturbed person, but chooses instead to forgive him in his heart, bearing him no grudge nor rebuking him, this is the manner of the pious. The Torah's objection [to remaining silent] is only when he harbors animosity.
Our sages have said: "Words that come from the heart, enter the heart." It therefore follows that if you seek to correct a failing of your fellow and are unsuccessful, the fault lies not with him, but with yourself. Had you truly been sincere, your words would certainly have had an effect.
Love your fellow as yourself (19:18)
Rabbi Akiva said: This is a cardinal principle of the Torah.
The explanation can be found in the answer to another question: How is it possible to love another "as yourself"? Are not self and fellow two distinct entities, so that however closely they may be bound, the other will always be other, and never wholly as the self?
As physical beings, one's self and one's fellow are indeed two distinct entities. As spiritual beings, however, they are ultimately one, for all souls are of a single essence, united in their source in G-d. As long as one regards the physical self as the true "I" and the soul as something this I "has", one will never truly love the other "as oneself." But if the soul is the "I" and the body but its tool and extension, one can come to recognize that "self" and "fellow" are but two expressions of a singular essence, so that all that one desires for oneself, one equally desires for one's fellow.
Consider these concepts:
What lesson can we learn from a law that appears to apply only to the High Priest? Kedoshim, the second Torah portion read on this Sabbath, begins with G-d telling the Jewish people that they are to be holy, "for I, G-d their Lord, am Holy." The verse informs us that a Jews sanctity can be of such magnitude that it comes to resemble G-ds. So it is that, before giving the Torah, G-d tells the Jewish people: "You shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." In other words, every Jew has the capacity to reach the lofty level of a "High Priest," with the same measure of love for G-d as Aharon and his sons displayed. ... Mans potential for sanctification is such that it even bears a degree of comparison to Gods. The very end of Kedoshim (20: 22-26) explains the concept of holiness as the means for being separate from the other nations. Three basic formats for holiness exist: Time, place, and person. The ultimate integration of the three is found in the person of the High Priest entering the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. ... Because a person possesses an "actual part of G-d" within his being, it is possible for him to appreciate and express holiness on all levels, even within the confines of material existence. Moreover, this inner potential drives every individual to continually seek higher rungs of holiness. Just as G-d is unbounded, transcending all levels, so too, every person can ascend to ever-more-refined and elevated levels.


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