Everyday holiness

Kedoshim (Holy People) Vayikra/Leviticus 19:1-20:27

Haftorah Reading: Ezekiel 20:2-20

Today we look at a Torah portion that by most accounts is the most important section of Torah. This Torah portion actually tells us in practical terms what it means to be holy. Our world has improved in many ways since Adam and Eve. Humanity has grown in number. There are many new inventions to make life easier. There are new and easier to use tools that are supposed to help us cope better with the challenges of life. These advances are to make our lives more pleasant and profitable.

Think of travel for example.  We can fly around the world in a fraction of the time of what was portrayed in the movie, “Around the World in 80 Days.” However one thing still dogs each of us. That is the ability to live a sanctified or holy life. Here in our Torah portion we have a blue print of how to achieve this. My prayer for all of us is that we can move closer to our goal by reading, carefully studying, and applying these verses to our everyday life.  We read in the Messianic scripture in I Peter 1:15-16 this same theme laid out for the early believers. “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’”

This is as important, maybe more so, in our day as it has ever been. Whether we realize it or not the world watches us. Are we living what our words say or are we only empty words with little or no action? What matters is how we live. We are to live each day as holy people. Anything else brings shame on the name of G-d and our words are as clashing symbols, noise but no more.  I read a quote today that is very true, “We change the world by our example, not by our opinion.”  So let us look at some of the examples from our Torah portion as to how to live a holy life.

When we read our Torah section a common thread holds these verses together. These verses speak 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 G-d’s standard, G-d’s holiness. When we deal with people we are to be honest, compassionate and loving. We are not to react as others might but we are to bring holiness into everything we do or say.

Our Torah portion begins in Leviticus 19:3 by saying, “Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am the L-rd your G-d.” Our personal family relations are the first sign of holiness. Also it does not seem to depend on how our mother or father treated us. We are to honor them, their position as our parent. Our issue is how we relate not if they were great parents or not. Our actions are what we must be aware of. How we relate will either set us free or add to our burdens.

In fact, as we read this portion we see example after example that speaks directly to us about our reaction to a situation where we may have been hurt by someone and how, as a holy person, we are to react to that situation.

In Leviticus 19:17 we read, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart.”  How do we live this out? Who is damaged by hating someone in their heart? Unresolved hate can transform itself into a poison that will affect our entire being. If we have been hurt by another person that hurt must be talked about if possible. It may not be resolved but it is no longer hidden away in our heart to fester. Forgiving a person who has hurt you may not result in that person accepting the blame for what they did but it can bring you freedom and a release from the hate or bitterness you may have been carrying. It will allow you to go on in your life leaving the pain behind.

If we hold on and carry such a burden it will continually rise up in our life seeking to destroy us. The story of Absalom and Amnon in II Samuel 13 is a good example of unresolved hate between brothers. Our Torah portion is stressing the importance of how we live our life as holy people. It is eternally important that we live an honest and compassionate life. We hate no one and treat all people with respect, love and mercy. Even in those cases where no one will see and we could get by with less than holy behavior we cannot give in to fleshly actions.  We are all called to be holy for we are the children of a holy G-d.