Holiness is in the Details - קדושים

Friday, 10 May, 2024 - 3:05 pm

Holiness is in the Details 

The opening statement in this week's Parsha is the commandment to be holy: 

Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy. (19:2)

But what does it mean to be holy, and how is holiness achieved? 

After reading the first 19 chapters of Leviticus, we might think that holiness is associated with priests, offerings in the temple, Yom Kippur, or the high priest's entrance into the holy of holies. This week's Parsha, named "Kedoshim" which means "holy", gives us a completely different perspective. This Parsha is addressed not to the priests but to the "entire congregation of the children of Israel", and the arena for this portion's commandments is not the holy temple but rather  daily life: farming, business, and interactions between people: "When you reap the harvest of your land", "The hired worker's wage shall not remain with you overnight" "You shall commit no injustice in judgment", When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not taunt him", "You shall have true scales, true weights". 

In Judaism, holiness begins with separating from the mundane and connecting to the spiritual and transcendent, as expressed in the first half of the book of Leviticus, yet the ultimate meaning of holiness is infusing the daily moments of life with morality and a connection to G-d, as expressed in elaborate detail in this week's Parsha. For ultimately, holiness is not the escape from the physical world but rather its sanctification. 

But how can we attain holiness not only in the temple but also in the field? Not only during the study of Torah but also while trading in the market? The verse continues: "for I, the Lord, your God, am holy". God is not limited to the definitions of time and space, and therefore is not confined to any specific time and place. Our task is to access and connect to G-d’s presence in every area of life, infusing the mundane with meaning and holiness. 

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe, 26 Nisan, 1986 


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