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Parashat Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27)

“Do not hate your brother/sister in your heart; you shall rebuke your neighbor but bear no sin because of him/her.” – Leviticus 19:17

Parashat Kedoshim (kedoshim is the plural of kadosh, holy) includes key moral precepts and ritual laws, many of which are restatements of the Ten Commandments as found in Exodus and Deuteronomy. Kedoshim is understood to be the central part of Leviticus’ Holiness Code (known as such because of all the times the word holy is used). These laws and principles relate both to our relationship to God (bein adam laMakom) and our relationship to our fellow human beings (bein adam lachaveiro).

We have included the verse above in our recent TAG: Jewish Values through JCC Camping[1] unit called “Bein Adam Lachaveiro: Friends and Enemies,” because it identifies where we often get stuck in our relationships. We see a friend do something that we feel is wrong, but rather than say something, we may judge our friend and distance ourselves emotionally. The Torah tells us that to build community, we need to “rebuke” or challenge our friends where their actions may seem “off.” It is critical, however, that we come from a loving place and ensure that we do not embarrass the person, lest we “bear sin” by humiliating them.

Being on the receiving end of rebuke is rarely fun or easy; giving constructive criticism that another person can hear may be even more challenging. In a world where people are often quick to judge and shoot off “tweets” or e-mails without taking time to think them through, Kedoshim reminds us that creating caring, connected communities is all about nurturing and strengthening our relationships. And by taking the time and opening our hearts, we can indeed find holiness.

Shabbat Shalom,


Matt Abrams Gerber is the Senior Program Director of JCC Association’s Mandel Center for Jewish Education.

[1] TAG is an acronym for Torah (learning and living), Avodah (service and spirituality), and Gemilut Chasadim (acts of loving kindness). TAG: Jewish Values through JCC Camping® is a curricular initiative designed to enrich the Jewish component of the JCC camping experience.

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