Holiness: Not In The Synagogue
Parashat Kedoshim: Res non verba! (Deeds not words)
Often the role of the interpreter of the words of the Torah is to bridge the gap between the text and the reader. In other cases our role is much closer to delivering the message “as is”. Parashat Kedoshim (Lev. 19-20) is one of the latter, conveying a clear message and perhaps one of the prettiest portions in the whole Torah.
Honoring its name, the Parasha presents a compilation of concepts which can help Man approach the idea of holiness. The first part proposes ideas aiming at a better humanity, which would lead to a better society. The second lists all the forbidden sexual relations (incest).
Focusing on the first part of the Parasha, I’d like to share my reading.
It is interesting to highlight the rhetorical challenge that the reading presents. The bible uses specific formulas to emphasize the importance of fulfilling certain orders. One of these formulas is the penalty of death. In other words this comes to say – do this because it is very important for your life. This is somewhat similar to the Italian mother saying with deep love “ti amazzo” (I’ll kill you), or the Polish mother full of concern saying “it’s killing me”!
Another technique is finishing sentences with the phrase “I am the Lord, your God”, basically saying “do this because I say so”!
And now, putting aside the “music” of this “song” (these two rhetorical elements), we can concentrate on the contents!
-קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ: כִּי קָדוֹשׁ, אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם.
Header: You shall be holy for I, the Lord your God, am holy!
(In a minute we’ll think about this opening phrase and the idea of holiness)
Respect your parents, and observe my Shabbat, rest, live a balanced life and don’t cling to the material (idolatry).
Eat with conscience and watch what you eat, adopt limits, otherwise you may put yourself in danger!
Don’t hog everything you make, pay attention because there might be leftovers that you can share with the poor and the needy. Don’t rob, don’t lie, don’t defraud and don’t use the name of God to justify your bad deeds.
Be a good employer! Don’t exploit your neighbor, or be it – don’t ask of others more than what they can provide and what is appropriate, don’t seize their belongings and never hold your laborer’s wages, not even for one night (if you don’t know what this one is about, it may be because you never lived in the third world).
Do not insult the deaf nor place a stumbling block before the blind! Render fair decisions and do not favor the rich nor the poor.
Avoid speaking ill of others and do not gossip! Try to be sincere and transparent. Do not be vindictive nor rancorous, take the challenge to love your fellow as yourself!
Watch the Earth!
Express and use your sexuality but responsibly!
Respect and watch your body and those of others! Including those of the animals, and do not eat their blood.
Do not base your knowledge or beliefs on superstitions and legends.
When you see the aged – rise (for example in the subway!) and respect the old.
Treat the immigrant well, consider him as one of your own and always remember that you too were strangers (In Egypt)!
Know precisely how much you measure! Use honest balance and weights! Be honest.
Do you know why this is one of the prettiest portions of the Torah?
Because it explains eloquently and clearly that holiness, or our capacity to connect profoundly with values, is not a theological manifest nor a sermon, and of course not a missionary messianic act, but rather it is a behavioral code.
It is the constant act of moving around in this world attempting to be a better person, sensitive, honest…
You can’t achieve this by praying non-stop or by naming God in every sentence you say.
Holiness is when you resign your seat in the subway giving it to the person who needs it, it is when instead of answering with anger and impatience you show empathy and comprehension, it is being honest, it is caring for the life of others and for yours as well.
Holiness is then the most profound connection you can aspire to, it is to deeply connect with your humanity!