Again this week there are two Torah portions read in the Shabbat service, Acharei Mot which deals with the Sanctuary services and Kedoshim which from its very name we realize speaks to the issue of holiness. (In Hebrew, Kedoshim comes from the same root word as Kadosh which means ‘holy’)
Kedoshim is the portion that invokes the Jewish people to be holy! Volumes have been written on the topic and for the Jew, the striving for holiness is a lifelong process. Holiness is not some ethereal, abstract concept. According to Torah, reaching for the ideal of holiness is a clear and unambiguous matter – it is, very simply, the ongoing commitment of each individual to develop into the very purpose for which he or she was created: to reflect the goodness and holiness of G-d through one’s daily life. That we were created in His image and likeness defines our greatest calling – to be, as I just said, an accurate reflection on this earth of the Holy One of Israel.
Having established this purpose and destiny in a handful of words, “You shall be holy as I am holy…” the parsha then proceeds with the practical spiritual directions on how to achieve taht very holiness, that profound closeness to the Almighty. Within this parsha is contained the prescription for Jewish survival and continuity. If any group of people are to survive as an definable entity, they must have common values and goals – a purpose, a direction and a meaning. By analyzing this portion we can learn much about our personal and national destiny as Jews.
Some of the Mitzvot included in this portion are to honor and respect your parents, to observe Shabbat, to have no part in idol worship, to give gifts to the poor, to deal with integrity, to love your fellow Jew, to refrain from immoral sexual relationships, to give honor to old people, to love the proselyte, to keep oneself from sorcery or superstition, to not pervert justice, to observe the Torah’s dietary laws and more.
At the very end of the portion, we read:
“You shall observe all My decrees and ordinances … you shall be holy … I have separated you from the peoples to be Mine.”
Therein lies the key: Hashem separated the Jews from the rest of the nations for the purpose of being uniquely His, endowed with the destiny to which He called us. This is no way makes the Jew superior to others, just different in calling and purpose. It also reminds the Jew of his/her profound responsibility to be the “servant of Hashem” for the sake of the whole world.
In Tune with Torah this week = beyond our individual professions, careers, interests, and talents, let us this Shabbat remind ourselves of the primary calling on each of us: to be holy as He is holy. Though one person may become holy through his work as a doctor, for example, while another grows in holiness through being a stay at home mother, the end goal remains the same for all. Whatever our occupation in life, its purpose is far greater than just earning a living or advancing in a career. Our work is dignified with a higher spiritual calling – it is the vehicle through which we increase in holiness day by day.