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April 24th, 2014
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Torah

Parshas Kedoshim - The Kedusha Infomercial

The underlying theme of Sefer Vayikra is a presentation of an ideal life of Kedusha - sanctity. The setting of the Kohain in the Bais Hamikdash is the model that the Torah chose to describe this utopian life of materialism in the service of spirituality. The two Parshios, last week's Acharei Mos and this week's Kedoshim, continue this theme, but they extend the examples of sanctity beyond the realm of the priesthood and temple service. Most of the Mitzvos in this week's reading introduce sanctity into the daily lives of the nation.

Last week's Parsha, Acharei Mos, is divided between a description of the Yom Kippur service and the fifteen prohibited sexual relationships. This week's Parsha, Parsha, Kedoshim, introduces a variety of applications for the integration of sanctity into our daily lives. The following is only a partial list: The honoring of parents; charity; paying a workers wages on time; concern for the spirituality and physical well being of others; not placing a stumbling block in front of the morally blind; judging fairly; not to gossip; giving proper criticism; not standing idly by when someone else is in danger; not to harbor resentment; to love your neighbor; and not to bear a grudge or take revenge.

Additionally, there are a number of laws dealing with speciation and separation: Do not crossbreed livestock. Do not crossbreed different species of seeds. Do not wear Shatnez - a mixture of wool and linen.

In the second half of Kedoshim the seemingly eclectic examples of how sanctity is applied are continued. It is interesting to note that the Torah saw fit to prohibit consulting with mediums or oracles three separate times: 19:31 - 20:6 - 20:27.

Why does the Torah repeat the prohibition against seeking the advice of oracles and mediums, three separate times? Why are laws such as Shatnez and not crossbreeding lumped together with the laws of honoring parents, sexual prohibitions, maintaining justice, and not visiting practitioners of the occult?

As stated in verse 20:26, the reason for the laws of Kedusha is, "You are to be holy because I (G-d) am holy." The laws of sanctity set us apart from all the other nations and establish a unique bond between G-d and ourselves. The same could be said for all the Mitzvos; however, it is specifically in regards to the laws of Kedusha - sanctity that the Torah states this reason of "being like G-d." Why?

The belief in a G-d who created the universe is intended to focus us on G-d's reasons for creating the universe and all who inhabit it. The greater our awareness of G-d, the greater our acceptance that everything in the world has a unique purpose and destiny. The Talmud relates an incident with the Yom Kippur goat that had been chosen to be sent into the desert rather than being offered as a sacrifice in the Temple. The goat had run away in protest at what it perceived as being a less important destiny than its twin goat because it had been chosen to die in the desert rather than on the altar. The great Rabbi Akiva comforted the goat by telling it, "This is why you were created. Your personal destiny is to serve your Maker by being sent into the desert." The goat willingly went to serve its destiny. (Note: An otherwise non free-willed creature exhibiting free will in its service to G-d, specifically on Yom Kippur - the holiest day of the year.)

Our behavior in all arenas of life, family, social, business, personal, and religious, should reflect our acceptance of G-d's dominion and His reasons for creating all things. To truly appreciate why G-d created every little thing is impossible for us to ever attain. It would take many lifetimes for us to study and understand the particular destiny of each element in our world. (Another reason why the pre-diluvium generations lived so long.) However, our behavior can certainly reflect our acceptance of the fact, regardless of our understanding. (Another application of the concept of "Naaseh Vnishmah - We will do and they we will attempt to understand.")

Our primary way for showing our acceptance of G-d's dominion is to listen to His Mitzvos. Whether we understand G-d's exact reasons or not, and keep in mind that 97% of all the Mitzvos can and should be understood, by following His instructions we express our trust that He (G-d) knows what He is doing.

The practical meaning of Kedusha - sanctity is the specific designation of function and purpose. Keeping that in mind, we can review each Mitzvah in this week's two Parshios and understand why they were selected as examples of sanctity.

Whether the fifteen prohibited sexual relationships; the prohibition against wearing Shatnez; the prohibition against all forms of crossbreeding; the need for proper justice, or the commandment to honor parents, the understanding of Kedusha as emphasizing designation of purpose through separation remains consistent - regardless of whether or not we understand the exact reason for each Mitzvah. In truth, the very fact that certain Mitzvos are not easily understood is itself a lesson in separation and sanctity. We need to learn and accept that we are not G-d. There are many times that G-d, like parents and teachers, sometimes knows better - whether we like it our not.

Separation grants us the ability to see all things as unique and special. (Another good reason for parents and educators to revisit their more liberal approach to the Boy - Girl issue and what the Halacha truly expects of our behavior.) The very first Bracha in the weekday Amidah (Shemoneh Esray) asks that we be granted, "Dayah, Binah, V'Haskel - wisdom, insight, and discernment." The ordering of the three components of intellectual understanding is intentional. Discernment is the highest level of understanding, because our willful acceptance of G-d's commandments is possible only at the level where we are fully cognizant of G-d's reasons and intentions. (Keep in mind that although we said "Naaseh V'Nishmah - We will do and then we will attempt to understand," the second level, and therefore the higher level, was V'Nishmah!) Only if we know G-d's will can we truly choose not to listen or yes to listen.

I have always been fascinated and intrigued with the willingness of people to seek "spiritual advice" from a garishly dressed, Gypsy - like, Madam Whomever. Aside from the obvious caricatureness of the scene, I assume that they would not be in business unless there was a market for such services. The same is true for the more sophisticated marketing of Psychic hot lines and products. Why would any intelligent person willingly turn to a medium of sorts for advice and answers?

As already stated, discernment is the highest form of understanding because it allows us to recognize and accept the limitations of our own mortal intellect. By accepting our own limitations in relation to G-d, we also accept that we are not in control of the universe, or our own lives. If we are not in control of our own destinies, and G-d is, then the only avenue for us to exert any control over our own destinies is through following G-d's instructions and doing as He commands -regardless of whether we understand or agree. However, that degree of real control comes with the price of our willfully giving up the option of doing what we want and not listening to G-d. Guess what? That has been humanities most fundamental struggle since the time that Chava and Adam decided to eat from the tree of knowledge!

(Torah.org)

 

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