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This week's Torah Portion: 

30 K’DOSHIM - HOLY PEOPLE - LEVITICUS 19:1-20:27

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וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹֽר

דַּבֵּר אֶל־כָּל־עֲדַת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ כִּי קָדֹושׁ אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם

Vay'daber ADONAI el-Moshe leymore: Dabeyr el-kal-adat B'ney-Yisra'el v'amarta ahleyhem: K'doshim tihyu ki kadosh ani ADONAI Eloheychem

"Speak to the entire community of Isra'el; tell them, 'You people are to be holy because I, ADONAI your God, am holy."


From the opening two p’sukim a sh’eilah (Torah question) is put forth: How can we—the people of an absolute Holy God—likewise attain to holiness? The following lengthy quote from the ‘Everyman’s Talmud’ by Abraham Cohen, concerning holiness, will help us to begin to provide an answer:

’To the Rabbis the idea of God was not a metaphysical abstraction but the very foundation of right human living. As already mentioned, idolatry was synonymous with immorality and a degraded standard of life. Conversely, belief in God was the inspiration of a lofty plane of thought and action. It will be shown later that the doctrine of imitatio Dei, the Imitation of God, lies at the root of Talmudic ethics.

’The characteristic term, which distinguishes the Deity from this point of view, is ‘holiness.’ It implies apartness from everything that defiles as well as actual perfection. The Rabbinic Jew always thought of God as ‘the Holy One, blessed be He,’ that being the commonest of all the names ascribed to Him.

’Both the divine holiness and its meaning for human beings are emphasized in this passage: ‘The Holy One, blessed be He, says to man, “Behold, I am pure, My abode is pure, My ministers are pure, and the soul I give you is pure. If you return it to Me in the same state of purity that I give it to you, well and good; if not, I will destroy it before you”‘ (Leviticus Rabbah XVIII. I).

’But the term ‘holiness’ has a special connotation when applied to God. It has a perfection, which is beyond the attainment of any human being. In the text, ‘For he is a holy God’ (Josh. XXIV. 19), the adjective has a plural form, which is explained to mean, ‘He is holy with all kinds of holiness,’ i.e., He is the perfection of holiness. On the words ‘Ye shall be holy’ (Leviticus XIX. 2) the comment is made: ‘It is possible to imagine that man can be as holy as God; therefore the Scripture adds, “for I am holy”—My holiness is higher than any degree of holiness you can reach’ (Leviticus Rabbah XXIV. 9).
— Parashat K'doshim