K’doshim (Holy) Leviticus 19:1 – 20 :27 is the parsha for the week. We often think of the Torah as the Ten Commandments as previously studied in Parshat Yitro . Few have gone through the Torah counting them, but the Rabbis tell us there are 613 mitzvot or commandments. When people do something good it’s a Jewish expression to say that ‘they did a mitzva’, but a mitzvah is not an optional extra, our ancestors were expected to observe them all.
Continuing in the way of the Torah, which is to repeat itself until it’s fully understood, we go over again some of the principles laid out in the Ten Commandments. Respect your parents, keep Shabbat and don’t make idols. When you sacrifice a peace or a fellowship offering it must be done as specified. The meat cannot be left until the third day and if it can’t be eaten by then, it must be burned.
Don’t reap every last ear of grain in your harvest but leave the corners of the fields for the poor and the stranger. Don’t steal, lie, deceive or defraud each other. Don’t use God’s name unless you mean what you say and don’t swear on God’s name to give substance to a lie.
Don’t withhold wages when due, don’t take advantage of someone who is deaf or blind. Justice must apply to rich and poor equally. Don’t spread gossip and don’t do anything to endanger someone’s life.
Rebuke someone who is doing wrong, or you share their guilt. Don’t take revenge. Love your neighbour as yourself.
Don’t mix things up like planting two types of crops in a field or mating different types of animals or making a garment of two different fabrics.
A man sleeping with a slave woman who is not redeemed is not guilty of death but does have to bring a guilt offering.
Fruit trees are not to be harvested until the fifth year. Don’t eat meat with blood in it. Don’t cut your hair at the side of your head or the corner of your beard. Don’t have tattoos. Don’t make your daughter become a prostitute. Keep Shabbat.
Don’t consult mediums or dabble in the occult. Show respect to the elderly. Don’t mistreat strangers. Use honest weights and measures.
The following sins were capital offences:
- Sacrificing children to the god Molech.
- Cursing either parent.
- Committing adultery, both the man and the other person’s wife are guilty.
- Sexual relations with father’s wife or a daughter in law. Both partners to be executed.
- Bestiality, the animal also to be killed.
- Being a medium or practicing spiritism.
Other offences were serious but not capital and resulted in ostracism from the community
- Sleeping with a sister, an aunt or sister-in-law or having relations with a woman during her period.
A distinction is to be made between kosher and non-kosher animals as previously studied in Parshat Shemini .
God was giving our forefathers the land of Israel so that we should live in it as a holy people.
Haftarat K’doshim הפטרת קדשים
The Haftarah associated with this Parsha is Amos 9, 7-15. Sephardim read Ezekiel 20:2-22. The link between Torah and Haftarah is holiness. Israel thinks of itself a special nation, yet the passage starts by stating that God had done the same things for Israel that he had done for Cushites and the Philistines. Israel is chosen to be a holy nation for the glory of God, not for its own benefit. God was going to sift the nation so only the good grain got through the sieve. All the sinners among the people would be destroyed.
However, after the sifting process is complete a time of great blessing will come upon Israel.
[A]nd I will bring my people Israel back from exile.[d]
‘They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.
They will plant vineyards and drink their wine;
they will make gardens and eat their fruit.
I will plant Israel in their own land,
never again to be uprooted
from the land I have given them,’
says the Lord your God.” Amos 9: 14,15
Keeping the whole Torah is big ask. It all had to be kept. Fail on just one thing and you’re dead. James tells us we must keep the whole law (James 2:10) but is it possible to do that without faith in Messiah?
Rav Shaul the apostle Paul tells us that Messiah has delivered us from the curse associated with disobedience to Torah. We cannot do it ourselves; we have neither the motivation nor the power without Messiah. (Galtians 3:13)
Like the Pharisees at the time of our Lord was on earth, our orthodox relations indulge their self-righteousness by observing the minutiae of the Torah, like not cutting their Payot (sidelocks) in obedience to Leviticus 19:27 but missing out on the whole spirit of Torah particularly in not tolerating Messianic Jewish believers as they are constrained to love one’s neighbour as oneself. (Leviticus 19:18)
The latter scripture was quoted by the Lord Yeshua as one of the two greatest commandments of the Torah. Matthew 22:37-40
A lot of misinformation is preached in Churches about no longer being under the law. Actually, for people who were not born Jewish they never had any obligation under the Torah in the first place so freedom from the law is for Jewish people only. It is there in scripture by way of information for those who are grafted in by faith to Israel’s olive tree (Romans 11:17) and coming into Israel’s commonwealth by the blood of Messiah (Ephesians 2:12,12)
In Messiah we are free from the curse of the Law (Galtians 3:13) but not its obligations.
Indeed, it is only in Messiah that the full obligations of the Torah can be implemented.
Does it follow that we abolish Torah by this trusting? Heaven forbid! On the contrary, we confirm Torah. (Romans 3:31 CJB )
The Torah is summed up in three words
וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ ,
V’ahavta lereacha kamocha
Go thou and do likewise.
This article originally appeared on the BMJA website and is reposted with permission.