Thursday, April 24, 2014

Parasha K'doshim - Vayikra 19:1-20:27

This week's Torah portion, K'doshim, is normally read along with Acharei Mot. However,since this is a leap year, it gets an entire week to itself.

K'doshim means "holy people". This entire Torah portion deals with how we are to be a holy people for YHVH. It begins with a restatement of a few of the ten commandments, including honoring your mother and father, keeping Shabbat, and not making idols. These are ways that we are to be a people apart. We are commanded to be different from the world around us. Holy means "set apart". We cannot call ourselves holy if we act just like the rest of the world.

Chapter 19 deals mainly with ways in which we are to be holy. We see how to deal with our fellow man; don't steal, don't lie, judge righteously, don't spread slander. We also see how we are to treat the land and its produce; don't harvest the corners of your field, fruit trees are forbidden for three years, don't intermix your livestock. Verse 33 is a very important one. It says that the foreigner in our land must be treated the same as a native-born Israelite. This is another way of saying "One Torah". This chapter is all about how we do the things that make us holy. There is no mention of punishment or consequences.

Chapter 20 changes tone. We now begin to see consequences and punishment prescribed by YHVH for violations of holiness. Some violations result in being cut off from the community. This is the gentlest punishment listed in this part of the parasha. These offenses include many sexual improprieties. This also includes people who know of a stronger violation but do not stop it. Other violations result in death. These are serious offenses that were common in the land into which the people were called to enter. Listed offenses include child sacrifice, adultery, and homosexuality.

Why does YHVH spend so much time telling us about holiness? Because he wants his people to be different from those who are being removed from the land. He says that the people already there are being destroyed because they are an abomination. His people are to be different. If we wish to be a part of His people, we must also be different.

One easy way to remember to be holy is to simply show respect for each other, for the land, and for YHVH himself. By leaving the corners of the field unharvested, you provide for the poor and the orphans. You show respect for the land when you allow the trees to grow fruit unmolested for three years. You show respect for YHVH by obedience and sacrifice.

How would our world be different today if we simply showed respect in this way? For example, chapter 19, verse 32 says we should stand in the presence of the gray-haired. This includes male and female as can be seen by the use of the feminine form of the Hebrew word seybah and the male word zaqen. Do we stand in the presence of our elders today? In English the word hoary means gray. Compare that to verse 29 above it about making our daughter a whore. Today, many parents don't literally turn their daughter into a whore, but they treat her as one. In fact, we give more respect and honor to actors, singers, etc. who dress and act like a whore than we do to our elders. Society has it backwards.

Which will you choose to honor; the hoary, or the whore?

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