This week, we have the privilege of reading two Parshiyot, Acharei Mot and Kedoshim. The theme of the second Parsha, Kedoshim, as its name suggests, is holiness. Modern Jews all too often associate the concept of holiness with a realm far removed from daily life. Rabbi Joseph Hertz writes in his commentary, “Holiness is thus not so much an abstract or a mystic idea as it is a regulative principle in the everyday lives of men and women…Holiness is thus attained…by the spirit in which we fulfill the obligations of life in their simplest and commonest detail…”
Afew questions to consider:
1. According to the opening verse in Parshat Kedoshim, the Jew strives to be holy in order to be more like God. How is it possible for a human being to be like God? What is it about God that makes God holy and what is it about the human being, according to this Parshah, that makes a human being holy?
2. One of the earliest systems of social welfare is to be found in Parshat Kedoshim. In Chapter 19, Verses 9-10, we are commanded to leave the corners of the fields as well as any forgotten fruit for the poor. What does the Torah accomplish by allowing the needy person to work in the field in order to receive his daily food? Would such a system be practical today? How could the law of the corners be applied in our society?
3. It is interesting to note that Chapter 19, Verse 13 makes an association between three different laws-oppression, robbery, and delay in the payment of salary to laborers. What is the connection between these three prohibitions? Why were they all included in one verse? Note that Maimonides defines robbery as, “He that takes property of a man by violence, and oppression as involving something which reaches a person without the owner’s consent. When the owner claims it back the other withholds the property by force…”.
4. Chapter 19, Verse 14, “You shall not place a stumbling block before the blind’ is given a broad range of interpretations in the Talmud and in later Jewish literature. Almost all Jewish scholars understood that the expression “the blind” is not to be interpreted literally. A person can be “blind” if he or she is ignorant of a particular situation. To what situations in your daily life can you apply this ruling? In what ways does the modern advertising industry sometimes place a “stumbling block before the blind?
5. The Torah commands us, “Thou shalt not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people”. (Chapter 19, Verse 8). There are times, however, when it is only natural for a person to be nary and even hold a grudge against another person. The Talmud claims that in monetary matters when a person has a moral right but no legal right to collect fees owed to him by another individual, he or she can only complain (have a grudge). Are there situations in which a person is justified in holding a grudge? Why or why not? Why is this law applied only to fellow Jews and not to all human relations?
“YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF, I AM THE LORD” (Leviticus 19:18)