Torah Weekly

For the week ending 2 May 2020 / 8 Iyyar 5780

Parshat Kedoshim

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
Become a Supporter Library Library


The nation is enjoined to be holy. Many prohibitions and positive commandments are taught:

Prohibitions: Idolatry; eating offerings after their time-limit; theft and robbery; denial of theft; false oaths; retention of someone's property; delaying payment to an employee; hating or cursing a fellow Jew (especially one's parents); gossip; placing physical and spiritual stumbling blocks; perversion of justice; inaction when others are in danger; embarrassing; revenge; bearing a grudge; cross-breeding; wearing a garment of wool and linen; harvesting a tree during its first three years; gluttony and intoxication; witchcraft; shaving the beard and sideburns; tattooing.

Positive: Awe for parents and respect for the elderly; leaving part of the harvest for the poor; loving others (especially a convert); eating in Jerusalem the fruits from a tree's fourth year; awe for the Temple; respect for Torah scholars, the blind and the deaf.


Being Normal

“You shall be holy…” (19:1)

It always struck me, that whenever I had the privilege to meet a great Torah Sage — how normal he seemed. It was, in fact, as if he defined the yardstick of normalcy. After meeting this person, others seemed somewhat less than normal.

The Alshich explains that G-d instructed Moshe to call all the people together when giving them the commandment to be holy in order that it would be clear that holiness is not something achievable by only the few. Every Jew has the potential to be holy, and thus it follows that if every Jew has the potential to be holy, holiness is not a voluntary affair, but an obligation.

Holiness does not consist of mortifying the flesh or of extreme abstinence. Holiness does not mean rolling in ice or lying on a bed of nails. Holiness means being more and more normal. Holy Jews live normal married lives. They eat normally. They breathe normally. However, everything they do is with consideration and within measure.

Holiness means being normal even under the most abnormal situations. It means never compromising with our lower desires, but at the same time recognizing that we are part physical beings. Being holy means resisting that extra, excessive spoonful of cholent, even if the kashrut is top-notch. Above all, holiness means going beyond the technical fulfillment of the mitzvahs. It means sanctifying that which is permitted. When something is outright forbidden, it is much easier to steer clear of it. There’s no room for negotiation with our lower personas. However, when something is permitted, there is always the temptation to push the edge of the envelope. And even though technically one could stay within the letter of the law, the commandment to be holy tells us that there is more to mitzvah observance than the letter of the law. Observing the spirit of the law is itself a mitzvah. That’s what it means to be normal.

  • Based on the Ramban

© 1995-2024 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved.

Articles may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue or school newsletters. Hardcopy or electronic. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission in advance at [email protected] and credit for the source as Ohr Somayach Institutions

« Back to Torah Weekly

Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.