Kedoshim (Holy People) (Leviticus) Vayikra 19-20

In this Torah portion we are struck by the fact that mere mortals can be Holy because in Leviticus 19:1-2 it says, “Be holy because I, the L-rd your G-d, am holy. “

A further exploration of the word Holy or Kadosh would be helpful.  While it is true that the word Kadosh implies a separateness, standing apart.  Yet it in fact implies much more. To be Kadosh is to be designated, to be set apart for a purpose. 

When a bride and groom get married under the Jewish canopy the groom declares the words “Behold you are sanctified unto me” What he is actually saying is that his bride is designated, set apart, for him only.

When the bible tells us in Exodus 13:2, ”Sanctify( Kadesh)  unto Me all the first-born, whatsoever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast, it is Mine,” G-d is commanding the people to designate for Him every first born.

To be holy then is to be set apart on the one hand and on the other hand to step in to a place of designation, a place designated for a Higher purpose.

This will help us understand the words in the beginning of the Torah portion; “Speak to the entire congregation (KOL ADAT)  of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.(Leviticus 19:1-2)

The word  “adat” is a form  of “eydah.”  The Hebrew word “eydah” stems from the root which implies testimony or affirmation. The people of  Israel, when called an eydah, served as a witness:

“You are My witnesses,(Atem Eidai) ” declares the L-rd, “And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no G-d formed, And there will be none after Me. I, even I, am the L-rd, And there is no savior besides Me (Isaiah 43:10-11)

We are to be witnesses or a people that  ‘testifies’ by our very presence and life of God’s existence and faithfulness.  So this week’s portion describes examples of how one is to live a designated and purposeful life .

1.Our Heavenly Father is a G-d of boundaries.  In Genesis we see Him separating day from night, land from water, etc.  In general how do we see G-d setting boundaries in our Torah portion this week?

Up until now this book of Torah has been about sacrifices, purity, the Mishkan/Tabernacle and the priesthood. Here G-d tells Moshe to speak to the entire people of Israel. This is the same scene as at the mountain when G-d gave the ten commandments. However, here the people, and us, get an instruction manual on how to live a holy life. 

When we read these verses a common thread holds them together. That thread for the most part has to do with setting boundaries on how we relate to family, to other people and how we conduct business as we navigate the days of our lives. 

These verses speak to us about how to live each day as a holy person, a person who does not withdraw from the world but one who infuses each day with the holiness of G-d. They show us how to be set apart. When we deal with people we are to be honest, compassionate and loving, not react as others might but bring holiness into every part of our lives.

We are called to do things that will separate us from others – uncomfortable though that may sometimes be, or against our own personal inclinations – because He has declared us to be separate.

When we have a problem with a brother verse 19:17 is our guideline on how to deal with it. When we read, “you shall not hate your brother in your heart,” how do we live this out? Who is damaged by hating someone in our heart? Left unresolved hate can transform itself into a poison that affects our entire being. If we have been wronged by someone it needs to be talked about if possible. It may not be resolved but it is not hidden away in our heart to fester and damage us spiritually in the long run. I John 3:15 says, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.”

G-d chose Israel from all the nations to be a people for His own possession. Israel was to demonstrate its separation from the nations by the way they lived each day.  We too, as followers of Yeshua, are called to live as He lived, take the choices He took. 

Yeshua is known to the nations of the world through the actions of His people. As we separate the clean from the unclean, such as food, films or relationships, in accordance with His word, we announce to the world who we are in Him. 

2.Vayikra 19:18 and Mark 12:31 have basically the same words, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This principle stands at the foundation of both Judaism and the Messiah’s teaching. My question is what does it mean and how do we implement this command in our lives?

We often find ourselves focusing on the physical aspects of a person or how we perceive them and we struggle to love them as we should. Maybe our focus should be reframed to be able to look at a person with spiritual eyes.

The real person is not the body that we see but rather the breath of G-d, the soul. I think this is where our focus should be. Our challenge is the tendency to label people based on how they appear. 

We see it every day in our society, liberal, conservative, poor, rich, dirty, clean. This is not where we must keep our focus. Vayikra tells us that we should strive to see people as G-d sees them and not be clouded by outward appearance. Some of us might give preference to the poor and down trodden. Others might give preference to the rich and famous. Neither is correct. It takes real work on our part to love those unlike ourselves. Yeshua was able to do this. We must search ourselves and see if our tendency is to categorize people. We can learn to be more patient and forgiving. “You shall be holy, for I the L-rd your G-d am holy.” Lev. 19:2

3.In Leviticus 20:26 it says, “And you shall be holy to me; for I the L-rd Am holy, and have separated you from other people, that you should be mine. There are also passages in the Messianic scripture that talks about being separate to the L-rd.  Can you find verses where the word separate is found?

II Corinthians 6:16-17”For we are the temple of the living G-d. As G-d has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their G-d, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the L-rd. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”

Matthew 13:49-50 “So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

 Later on, Yeshua uses a different image for the same truth: 

Matthew 25:31-32, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats”

4.Read Matthew chapter 5 and this Torah portion.  What similarities do you find? Which verses in Matthew did Yeshua command us to not be satisfied with just what is written in Torah but to go further?

Yeshua taught much like here in Leviticus that our life should be lived out each day as G-d’s adopted children. In Leviticus we read G-d’s instructions on how to be a holy people.

We read in Lev. 19:9-10 we must be generous in helping the poor., 

Lev. 19:11 we are to deal fairly in our relationship, not to lie. 

Lev. 19:12 We are not to cheat to get ahead, 

Lev 19:14 We are not to be cruel to people who are physically challenged.

Lev. 19:15 to be fair in judgment not being partial to either the poor or rich.

Lev. 19:16 not to gossip. 

G-d covers the sexual side of life again in this portion. (Chapter 20)

Passages in Leviticus talk about how to treat your brother fairly. When we read Matthew 5:43-48 Yeshua says we are to go further and love our enemies.

In Leviticus and Matthew, as well as many other verses in scripture, our issues have to do with our battle with our flesh. Greed drives us to wanting more and more, however we can obtain it. Sex is one of the strongest drives that man struggles with. 

In Matthew 5:27 we see Yeshua expands what Torah says about adultery.  Yeshua said you need to control even that first thought. 

Matthew 5:22  Yeshua speaks about hating our brother but takes it further.

Even in Matthew 5:17 Yeshua speaks about the Law and His purpose being not to abolish it but to give His people a pattern of how to live it out every day.

When we look at Matthew 5, we see Yeshua stressing many of these same points.  My point being, if we are to live a holy life these verses from both Matthew 5 and Leviticus 19-20 should be characteristics of our daily walk. 

5.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.