A Dvar Torah for Kedoshim
What Does It Mean To Be Holy? A Dvar Torah for Kedoshim: Leviticus 19:1 - 20:27.
By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman © May 5, 2022“And the Lord spoke to Moshe saying,
Speak to all the congregation of the children of Yisra᾽el, and say to them, You shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.”
This command sets the stage for this week’s Parsha Kedoshim. “You shall be holy.” What does it mean to be holy? The Hebrew word here is the name of our Parsha, Kedoshim. Rash explains that:
This means keeping aloof from the forbidden sexual relations mentioned [in the previous parsha] and from sinful thoughts. [It is evident that this is the meaning of Kedosha Torah because] wherever you find in the Torah a command to fence yourself in against such relations, you also find mention of “holiness.” For example (Leviticus 21:7)
Our parsha goes on to describe various applications of this word ranging from temple prostitution with Molech, to bestiality, to various types of incest. Why does biblical and rabbinic law forbid these acts? “For I the Lord your God am holy,” therefore, “You shall be holy.”
The command to be kedosh or holy goes further. Kedoshim is the plural form of kedosh and is found in the Bible several times concerning persons, their way of life, and their interaction with the world around them. Truly Holy people seek a relationship with HaShem through devekut, bitchon, and emunah. Kedoshim or holiness is the act of separating or consecrating something, someone, or self. When one sets oneself or an item apart for a particular purpose, direction, or goal, I am making myself or it “Kodesh.”
In the Biblical context, Kedoshim means set-apart or consecrated”. In fact, this word is so packed with special meaning that it is generally, but not always, translated as “being holy,” or Whole-ly set apart for G-d.
Sforno explains that after the presence of G-d had manifested itself among the Jewish people, sanctifying them for eternal life, as had been the meaning of the verse in Exodus 19:6 “you shall be for Me a nation of priests, a holy nation,” and taking into consideration G-d’s statement in Leviticus 11:45 “I have led you out of the land of Egypt in order to be your G-d and your becoming holy,” G-d had in the meantime separated the Jewish people from impurity through the legislation [of Torah laws].
After achieving this “holiness,” i.e. emulating the Creator’s holiness in the maximum manner possible for creatures, the Torah spells out this objective by saying, “For I the Lord am holy.” The teaching is that HaShem's original intention in creating humanity in the image of G-d (Genesis 1,26) had already had as its declared goal for this “image,” that their holiness would be constant.
After the presence of G-d had manifested itself among the Jewish people, sanctifying them for eternal life, as had been the meaning of the verse in Exodus 19,6 “you shall become for Me a nation of priests a holy nation,” and taking into consideration G-d’s statement in Leviticus 11:45 “I have led you out of the land of Egypt in order to be your G-d and your becoming holy.”
G-d had also elaborated on other ritual contaminations contracted through sinful contact... The objective of all these parts of Torah legislation was to establish a nation that could be described as “holy.”
After achieving “holiness” by emulating the Creator’s holiness in the maximum manner possible for creatures, the Torah spells out this objective by saying, “For I the Lord am holy;” the message is that the original intention in creating humanity in the image of G-d (Genesis 1:26) already had as its declared goal that this “image” would become something constant, ie that humanity would achieve and dwell within the consciousness of devekut, attachment to G-d. The objective is to ensure enduring life for the Jewish people as explained on Exodus 20:11.
Fill your consciousness with the Light and Love of G-d and hold Him with emunah. Holiness is the path to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As John Adams said: Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
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