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The Holy Ones

Parashat Kedoshim (Lev. 19:1-20:27)is all about the necessity of holiness. There is a moral, scientific and holy order to Creation. And Torah is its algorithm. 'Thou shall and thou shalt not' are the moral equivalent of ones and zeroes. The Creator commands His people to be holy: Dedicated for a special purpose.


Parashat Kedoshim teaches separateness...to acknowledge the differences between light and dark, animal and human, the permitted and the forbidden. These translate into common sense laws that forbid cruelty, sexual perversion, murder, theft and lying. Keeping the commandments against the aforementioned fosters kindness and charity. And the ultimate fulfillment is expressed in Leviticus 19:18, popularly known as the Golden Rule.


“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against members of your people. Love your fellow as yourself: I am HaShem.”


Most people aren’t aware of the first words of this verse which warn against vengeance. And the Torah Sages explain how simple acts of retribution against each other—many accepted by modern society are actually forbidden:


If one says to another “Lend me your sickle", and he replies, “No!", and the next day he (the latter) says to him (the former), “Lend me your hatchet”, and he retorts, “I am not going to lend it to you, just as you refused to lend me your sickle״ — this is avenging. And what is “bearing a grudge”? If one says to another, “Lend me your hatchet”, and he replies “No!” and on the next day he says to him “Lend me your sickle”, and he replies: “Here it is; I am not like you, because you would not lend me” — this is called “bearing a grudge (נטירה)” because he retains (נוטר) enmity in his heart although he does not actually avenge himself - (see Sifra, Kedoshim, Chapter 4 10-11; Yoma 23a). - Courtesy Sefaria.org


The Talmud references the so-called Golden Rule in Tractate Shabbat 31a, and speaks of a man who approached the House of Shammai, asking to be taught the Torah while standing on one foot. Shammai shooed him away. He then went to the house of Hillel and made the same request—to be taught Torah as he stood on one foot. Hillel converted the man, by telling him, “That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation. Go study” (Talmud Shabbat 31a). This precept was also known to Rabbi Akiva who called Leviticus 19:18 a fundamental principle of Torah. There is another verse in Parashat Kedoshim that stresses the importance of keeping G-d’s commandments pertaining to the holiness of the Land. The verse contains a hidden prophetic insight.


Before Israel entered the land, they were warned that Heaven and Earth would be witnesses against them, if they did not follow the Torah. In Jewish law, two witnesses are needed to convict someone--then the witnesses must initiate the sentencing of the guilty.


The Sages teach that the 70 years of Babylonian exile was G-d’s judgment for Israel for not keeping Shmittah(allowing the land to rest). They had ignored the commandment for a total of 70 years. The Temple was destroyed in the year 3338, on the Hebrew calendar. Now, consider the 3338th verse in the Torah?


"You shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them; that the land, where I bring you to dwell in it, that the land not vomit you out. - Lev. 20:22


Holiness was at the beginning. The first thing that the Torah calls kadosh is the seventh day. Holiness will bring the Geulah (Redemption) for the people of Israel and eventually, the planet. The Sages suggest a number of things can bring Moshiach, one is Torah study, another is that when Israel keeps just one Shabbat properly, Moshiach will come.

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