Leviticus 19 and Our Search For Holiness

Photo by Jordan Steranka on Unsplash
Photo by Jordan Steranka on Unsplash

You shall be holy because I, your God, am holy” (Lev.19:1)With this statement, one of the most famous and powerful Torah portions begins. The 19thchapter of Leviticus , the so-called “Holiness Code—provides us with a one chapter summary of ritual, ethical, economic, and social justice commands; all embraced by the phrase ani adonai elohaihem. (I am your God)

How interesting it is that this portion comes to use at this time. It is a not so subtle reminder of several things. One, that we have yet to fulfill the meaning of this potion and, two, the search for and the actualization of holiness rests not with some far off God, but with us.

We search for holiness! We pray for it, but it remains elusive. Just this week we were greeted with the news that we have surpassed 1 million deaths from Covid. We are bombarded every day with news and pictures of the war in Ukraine as the media and we forget about the social tragedy in Afghanistan. Our politics continue in free-fall and the economic gap between rich and poor grows wider by the day.

And now a long comes K’doshim. Take a few moments as you study the text for Shabbat either by yourself or in synagogue and be reminded that our search for k’dushah begins not on some macro level, but within each of us. This is why it is so hard! If we wish a society of equity and justice, then we need to model it, live it, teach it.  If we, as 19 says, love our neighbor camocha; as our self,(19:18) then we must be willing to hold a spiritual mirror to our own soul and as have we done enough, each in our own way to model this ideal of holiness.

This portion is complex and multi layered on one hand, yet, very simple on another. Holiness begins with us; one relationship at a time, one deed at a time. The text is clear; it is inclusive, a-political and open. It is a challenge that calls to each of us this Shabbat, a challenge to remind us that what we choose to do does make a difference and does impact others and does set an example. Can we accept this challenge before we fall into an abyss of apathy and compliance? Once again, the choice is ours!

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Richard F Address

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