Parashat Kedoshim is one of my favorite portions in the Torah. It also illustrates the stark distinction between the concept of holiness as understood within the Jewish community and that within much of the western world.
The concept of holiness is one that draws a lot of attention. People often talk about being holy, pursuing holiness, and being set apart as holy unto G-d. For many, however, it seems holiness is some sort of ethereal or mystical reality. No matter how hard we seem to try, it always seems to elude us. It is something other-worldly and hyper-spiritual. Yet, the Torah seems to paint an entirely different picture of what holiness is, and how we are to be set-apart as holy.
Kedoshim in Hebrew means holiness (or holy things). This week the Torah devotes an entire portion to this one issue. What is interesting is that the Torah’s description of how to be holy does not include anything about mystical states of consciousness, days on end of fasting, or isolating one’s self from the rest of the world. Holiness in the Torah is a lifestyle. We are instructed to weigh fairly, pursue justice, observe Shabbat and the mitzvot, and protect those who are down trodden. Why? Because the Torah states “Because I am HaShem…and you are to be holy as I am holy (Leviticus 19:2).”
It is a concept radically different from many of our own understandings of what we perceive as holy. Holiness is establishing HaShem’s Presence among us and through us. Yeshua intrinsically understood this. Yeshua came to serve, and to ransom his life for ours (Mark 10:45). After all, it is in this week’s Torah portion we find the commandment echoed by Yeshua, “To love your neighbor as you love yourself (Lev. 19:18).” Judaism clearly teaches that how we treat one another is a direct reflection upon our relationship with G-d.
The great Jewish thinker, Abraham Joshua Heschel, once stated that “the present is the presence of G-d.” Holiness in the Torah is not some mystical, esoteric state we all somehow strive to attain; but is rather a state of being, a way of living our lives. Holiness is establishing G-d’s Kingdom and Presence here on this earth. It is partnering with G-d in bringing redemption into the world.
This is also what Yeshua actually taught us to pray for, “May Your Kingdom come. May Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:9).” May each of us pursue justice, follow Torah and protect those who are downtrodden. For by doing so, we impart holiness into the world.
HaShem our G-d, open our eyes for opportunities to serve you, and help us to see the world and our neighbors the way you see them. And may we all merit Your soon coming and the ultimate redemption in the Messianic Age!