For the week ending 30 April 2022 / 29 Nissan 5782

Parashat 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 fourth year; awe for the Temple; respect for Torah scholars, the blind and the deaf.


Being Holy

“You shall be holy…” (19:2)

Rabbi Yonatan Eybeschutz was born in Cracow (Poland) in the year 5450 (1690). Apart from being a genius in Torah, he was also greatly esteemed by prominent non-Jewish scholars, among them the Jesuit bishop Hasselbauer. Rabbi Eybeschutz used his good offices to obtain permission from the bishop to print the Talmud which had been forbidden by the Church who charged that the Talmud had anti-Christian references. One of these references was the Gemara in Yevamot (60b) that says that the Jewish People “are called ‘man’ and the nations of the world are not called ‘man.’”

The bishop took deep and dangerous offence to this Gemara and accused Reb Yonatan that the Jews were racist and hated non-Jews.

Rabbi Yonatan replied that there were four Hebrew expressions for man: Enosh, gever, ish, and adam. The plural of enosh is anashim. The plural of gever is gevarim, the plural of ish is ishim. The word adam has no plural. There is no such word as adam-im. When the Gemara says that we are called adam and the nations of the world are not called adam, it is not because they are less human than us. Rather, the Jewish People are, in essence, one. We all come from the same soul root.

I am writing this after just returning from the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, zatzal, a person who embodied what it means to be adam.

I had the merit to meet Reb Chaim only once. I guess I’m something of what is known as, in Yeshiva circles, “a cold Lithuanian Jew.” I am not impressed by stories of miracle-working and near supernatural powers. But to me it seemed that Reb Chaim’s face radiated light. No exaggeration. “You shall be holy.”

Reb Chaim showed us what it meant to be adam.

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