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Parashat K’doshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27)

“Do not go about betraying your countrymen. Do not profit by the blood of your fellow; I am the Lord.”  (Leviticus 19:16)

The book of Leviticus is considered the heart of the Torah because it’s the middle book. Parashat K’doshim is considered the heart of Leviticus and is the parasha (portion) you’ve been waiting for.  Instead of sacrifices, skin diseases, and moldy houses, it contains mostly moral teachings focusing on social justice.  It is known as the Holiness Code because of the many times the word kadosh (holy, or sanctified) appears and insists the way we behave toward others is as important as how we fulfill ritual obligations to God.  The command to be holy (“…k’doshim t’hiyu…”; Lev. 19:2) is given in the plural, implying a collective responsibility for society; many people living virtuous lives supports individuals trying to do the same.

K’doshim teaches, “You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old…” (Lev. 19:3).  It is easy to understand it is kadosh to treat others with respect and dignity.  But k’doshim includes this verse as a statement that life itself is kadosh and living to an old age is not to be taken for granted. Rather, it is to be acknowledged, respected, and revered.  This is supported by Rabbi Eliezer’s injunction to repent one day before you die (Pirkei Avot 2:10; (Pirkei Avot is read each Shabbat afternoon between Pesach and Shavuot). Since you can never know, live each day as if it were your last.  Each day is kadosh.

Even in today’s advanced and technological world, war, disaster, and disease cut people’s lives short.  Living a long life is not a given, it is a gift.  That’s what makes it holy and brings with it the responsibility to live it well.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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