Friday, April 25, 2014

Holiness 101: A Torah Thought for Parashat Kedoshim

By Rabbi Mordechai Rabinovitch

At the start of this week’s Torah portion, Moshe is commanded to speak to the entire Jewish people, and say: “You shall be holy”.   There follows a whole long list of commandments – fifty one commandments in all – an extraordinary amount for a single parashah, almost one-sixth of all the commandments in the Torah.
A quick perusal of the commandments in this week’s reading will show that many of them are inter-personal, “between man and his fellow”.  Thus, the Torah demands respect for ones’ parents, caring for the poor, honesty, and paying salaries on time.  It forbids misleading people, miscarriage of justice, and gossip.
All these and more are what constitute “holiness”.  Let’s think about that for a moment.  How many of us associate “holiness” with various ritual and ceremonial acts? Don’t we often think that the holy person is the one who takes the longest time to say his prayers, or who spends the most money on ritual objects such as a lulav or matzah?
But the Torah teaches otherwise.  True holiness is achieved only by giving at least the same attention to matters between “man and his fellow” as to matters “between man and G-d”. As Rambam teaches in his commentary to the Mishnah (Peah 1:1), regarding commandments between man and G-d vis a vis commandments between man and his fellow: If a person fulfills those commandments that are between man and his Creator, he will merit reward in the World to Come; but if he fulfills the commandments that are dependent on proper relations between people one to another, he is [not only] rewarded in the World to Come for having fulfilled a mitzvah ­– he will also achieve a benefit in this world for good behavior with his neighbor [in building and enjoying a healthy, moral society based on mutual love and respect.

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