Torah Portion Acharei Mot(After the death) and Kedoshim( Holy People) Leviticus (Vayikra) 16-20
Haftorah Reading Ezekiel 22:1-19 and Ezekiel 20:2-20
Tonight we again read two Torah portions. However for our study I would like to mainly look at the second of the two, Kedoshim or Holy People. The word for what is translated as holy is in the plural form, signifying that it applies to us all and that it is to distinguish G-d’s people from the world. Another meaning, or really the primary meaning of the word is to separate out. So when G-d says He is holy what can we understand from that? He is unlike any other so called god. He stands alone. He is recognizable by His characteristics.
With these thoughts I have a couple of questions.
When I mention holy to describe a person such as a holy man or holy woman, what immediately comes to your mind? Is it a monk living on a mountain, or in a cave? Is it a priest or nun in their black robes or is it a fortune-teller or guru? For many people the definition of holy brings up those sorts of pictures. Is that what the verses in Kedoshim mean? When we read Lev. 19:2 is that what G-d is telling us?
No, the biblical meaning of holy, based on its Hebrew meaning, means separated out. Another way of thinking about it is to be refined. When you consider gold that has been refined what does it mean? The higher the karat number, the purer the gold. So 22 karat gold is much more pure than 10 karat. All the things that are not gold have been removed. Anything that would dilute or weaken the gold has been taken out.
This idea is helpful in making a distinction about what scripture means when it talks about us being refined. It does not mean to be taken out of the world and live in isolation or in a cult. It does not mean to live in a cave. No, it means, as we are refined, we by our life, refine the world around us. It is this refining that Paul speaks of in Romans 12:1-2.
As we continue to read in chapter 19 and 20 of Leviticus G-d tells us exactly what it means to be holy or separate. What matters is how we live, our words are not mentioned much except when it gets to slander. Mainly it is how we act in our life each day.
When we read through these chapters we see what G-d means when He says we are to be holy as He is holy. We respect our elders and our parents, we help the poor, we are honest in our business dealings, we don’t cheat people, we stay away from the occult and we observe the Sabbath. We are told to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are not to take revenge and we are not to be involved in certain relationships. Many of these things are not usually considered to be necessarily spiritual. However many times we see or experience being taken advantage of by a person or organization that professes to be people of G-d. How does that make you feel? We expect more from a believer than we do from the world. We assume that believers will conduct themselves in an ethical way and be morally different. When these things happen what is our reaction? We live with the hurt of being taken advantage of by someone from whom we expected more. Even more seriously it brings harm or disgrace to G-d. It damages His reputation and for sure the reputation of His body. Non-believers will say, “See he is no different, he is just like us.”
So the point of this Torah portion is, we are to be different than the world. We are to be trustworthy, truthful and honest in all of our dealing with people. Holiness is not about what church you belong to. Holiness is about how you live. It is about being not conformed to this world. So let us all live with honesty, integrity and respect for all people and with discipline in our lives. Then we will be holy.
One last important point, if we do these things that are stated in this Torah section is that enough? It is vitally important that these things not become just a mechanical act. The motivation must be more than just “doing.” Our motivation must be that we are children of the King and we love Him and want to be like Him. So each day, hour, minute of our life is spent in His presence. He is with us in every action we take or word we speak. We can do no less because it is who we are.
I think each of us would benefit greatly if we could understand the truth that every minute of our day we are in His presence. These commandments are not just what we must do but who we are. They are our guide through our day.