Kedoshim ~ Leviticus 19-20
The weekly Torah portion (Hebrew: פָּרָשַׁת הַשָּׁבוּעַ Parashat ha-Shavua, popularly just parasha) is a section of the Torah read publicly and aloud in weekly Jewish prayer services, usually in full during the Shabbat (Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath). There are 54 such parashiyot in Judaism, and the full cycle is read over the course of a Jewish year. Each week, the ECI Young Adults are providing us with a commentary on the week’s parasha.
Parasha Kedoshim, meaning “holy ones” constitutes Leviticus chapters 19 and 20. In this two chapters, we see God’s global strategy of salvation! He wants all nations to be saved. To help them to behave according to His heart, God gave them an example to follow: Israel.
Parasha Kedoshim, in summary
A long list of commandments is given, such as the principles of equality before the law, honesty in business, no stealing, no lies, the prohibition of idolatry, sorcery, sexual immorality and the obligation of respecting Shabbat, to honour one’s parents, to cherish and protect life, to take care of the poor and the strangers. And the command that Jesus repeated over fourteen centuries later:
You shall love your neighbour as yourself (Leviticus 19:18)
And even strangers!
The stranger that live with you shall be unto you as the home-born among you, and you shall love him as yourselves; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:34)
A Law to be holy, to testify about the Living God
Even if we think that the Law is strict and hard to follow (not to say impossible), we can only be amazed at how wise it is. It’s been given so that the children of Israel, who had lived for two centuries as slaves in Egypt, could learn to live together and become a nation. A very special one. A holy nation, set apart to show the other nations around how great, good and wise the God of Jacob is.
And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying: Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them: You shall be holy (“kedoshim”); for I the Lord your God am holy. (Leviticus 19:2)
And you shall be holy unto Me; for I the Lord am holy, and I have set you apart from the peoples, that you should be Mine. (Leviticus 20:26)
Most of the commands were completely revolutionary at the time. Respecting Shabbat for example. Not only the Hebrew had to respect it:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall you labour, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the Lord your God, in it you shall not do any manner of work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your man-servant, nor your maid-servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates (Exodus 20:7-9)
This law was also to the benefit of the servants and strangers. This principle goes against slavery and urge people to respect human dignity. Even animals had to rest that day, meaning that you had to take care of all the Creation!
Notice that being “holy” is not being “perfect”. Being holy is a process. Be holy because God is holy. Because your Father is holy. Look at Him, and imitate Him.
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. (Ephesians 5:1)
Jesus himself was always imitating the Father:
So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing.
A Land to put into practice the Law
God spoke not to individuals to be holy, but to the entire congregation of Israel. The Bible is not just a personal guide for one’s life. It sets laws and principles for the nations to follow, on economics, governance, social issues, education, health, environment…
To become a nation, and not just a congregation, the children of Israel had to have a land where where they could govern themselves and be able to obey and practice the Law of the Lord (and not the law decided by some men).
You shall therefore keep all My statutes, and all Mine ordinances, and do them, that the land, where I bring you to dwell in, vomit you not out. And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation, which I am casting out before you; for they did all these things, and therefore I abhorred them. But I have said unto you: “You shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land flowing with milk and honey.’’ I am the Lord your God, who have set you apart from the peoples. (Leviticus 20.22-24)
A Land that’s given back
God gave a Land, and took it back for some time (first 70 years, and then almost 2000 years!). It did not come out of the blue. God warned his children that if they did not respect His commands, He would cast them away. But He also promised that He will bring them back to Land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
I will certainly bring my people back again from all the countries where I will scatter them in my fury. I will bring them back to this very city and let them live in peace and safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God. And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me. I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land (Jeremiah 32:37-41)
Yep! God is wholeheartedly replanting the Jews in the promised Land. And that is the only verse in the Bible where you will find God doing something wholeheartedly! Who will stand against Him?
Physical and spiritual restauration
Ezekiel, chapter 37, speaks about the restoration of Israel, using an image of dry bones coming back to life. First the bones came together and then flesh and skin covered them: that’s the physical restoration stage. Only then breath and life came into them, and that is the spiritual restoration. Only then breath and life came into them, and that is the spiritual where they could govern themselves. The Jews first have to come back from the nations where they’ve been scattered before they can experience the Holy Spirit poured out on them.
For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36.24-27)
God will make a new covenant with His people. He will sanctify them once again, so that the nations can see and acknowledge that the God of Israel is the only trustworthy God, the One who does not go back on His promises.
Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them–it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will establish them, and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in the midst of them for ever. My dwelling-place also shall be over them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And the nations shall know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for ever. (Ezekiel 37.26-28)
God’s plan – setting the Israelites apart from the rest of the nations – has always been to give a chance to the nations to be saved!
Happy Yom Haatsmaout!
We celebrated the 68th anniversary of the Independence of Israel on Thursday. A miracle in itself… but it’s just the beginning of the restoration plan. Be ready, and rejoice!
Here are 68 reasons to celebrate Israel!
The European Coalition for Israel is a unique grassroots movement, which is seeking to promote better relations between Europe and Israel through advocacy and education. More information: http://www.ec4i.org