Torah Weekly

For the week ending 3 May 2003 / 1 Iyyar 5763

Parshat Kedoshim

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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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 4th year; awe for the Temple; respect for Torah scholars, the blind and the deaf.


Eat, my Child!

"Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Yisrael and say to them You shall be holy, for Holy am I, Hashem, Your G-d." (19:1)

I come from a generation of Jews who assumed that synagogue worship consisted of middle-aged ladies with badly-dyed blue hair standing outside the synagogue and almost-kissing each other on the cheek, whilst saying "Lovely to see you too, dear!" Concluding that this was the sum total of Judaism, and finding this particular mode of worship somewhat lacking, regrettably large numbers of my generation hi-tailed it off to the Himalayas where they are now watching their navels and waiting for something to happen.

I have news for them. Nothing happens when you watch your navel except for getting a stiff-neck. (But then we always were a stiff-necked people.)

About those blue-haired ladies, however, they made a mistake. They failed to notice that lying dormant under those blue rinses was a kind of spirituality about which we could not even guess.

"Eat! He never eats!" How many Jewish jokes are there about eating! The caricature Jewish mother complains continually that her offspring are dying of hunger in spite of the fact that their daily calorie intake would support a thoroughbred racehorse.

Behind every joke lies a truth. It may be a distorted truth, but it is a truth nonetheless. Judaism is unique in that it views the body neither as an enemy nor as a bacchanalian banquet, but as a resource. The body is not only capable of spiritual elevation, but it is created for this purpose. The bodys deepest satisfaction comes from being correctly used in the service of the soul. To the secular mindset, however, holiness is synonymous with abstinence. The body is incapable of spiritual elevation and must be mortified or transcended.

This weeks parsha begins with G-d saying to Moshe: "Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Yisrael and say to them You shall be holy, for Holy am I, Hashem, Your G-d." Since G-d instructed Moshe to speak to the entire assembly, we know that this commandment was to be spoken in public to all the Jewish People together. Why? What is it about the command to be holy that it needed to be communicated in this fashion?

The holiness that the Torah seeks from us is not a holiness of separation and denial, of monasticism and seclusion. Rather, it is a holiness which is to be lived in an assembly; a holiness where the body is elevated by the soul and where its greatest potential is only realized in our interaction with our fellow beings.

Based on Chatam Sofer

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