You Shall be Holy (K'doshim)

You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal your God, am holy.

Like last week, we again have a double Torah portion this week. I chanted from the first, Achrei Mot, but I want to talk tonight about the second. It is called K'doshim, meaning holiness. K'doshim is part of a larger section of Leviticus that has come to be known as the Holiness Code. This Holiness Code references Leviticus, chapters 17-26. It's called this because of the repeated use of the word kadosh, holiness.

On the face of it, a literal understanding of this verse suggests that we do what God commands. In the previous few chapters of the holiness code, God enumerates specific laws and precepts that we are to observe. Here too, God continues to give us Mitzvot to observe and follow.

God says, You shall be holy because I am holy.

I've talked before about the concept of imitatio Dei. It's a religious concept in which we find virtue and blessing by imitating God. God creates Adam and Eve, we imitate God by creating life. God heals Abraham by sending three angelic messengers, we are taught to visit the sick. God loves, we love ... And in this section of Leviticus we see that we can imitate God's holiness as well. We have the opportunity to be God-like in our actions.

It's important to note that the Torah does not say, You shall be happy, or You shall be wealthy, but rather, You shall be holy.

But what does it mean to be holy? We know what it means to heal, we know what it means to create ... But holiness is much more amorphous; what defines a holy action?

Looking at the creation story, it's obvious that God is powerful. Unimaginably powerful, in fact. God can do anything that God wants. But if we look beyond the powerful creation abilities of God, we see something else.

Each evening of creation, God reflects on that day's cwork. And God calls it good.

The creation story is importantbecause it highlights God's limitless power. And, It also highlights an ethos to creation and a sense of divine judgement. God does not create the universe simply because God can. God creates the universe because God yearns to create something good.

And we are that something.


Remember the command at the beginning of this portion; You shall be holy because I am holy. Looking back to the creation story, God's holiness can be found in the blending of God's power and God's goodness. Holiness is the intersection of both.

This is important because it teaches us that although we can be holy, we need to work to be holy. We are not holy simply because we are human. We have the potential for holiness, but like God, we must blend our creative power with goodness.


It's fitting that this command comes this week, as tonight we are exactly halfway through this period between Passover and Shavuot, this time of the Counting of the Omer. In a few weeks we will celebrate Shavuot, the holiday in which we celebrate the gift of Torah to all of us.

As we continue the journey toward Mount Sinai, let us find inspiration in the fact that each of us can be holy. Let us combine our creative powers and our goodness to create holiness. By imitating God in this way, we will follow that command found at the beginning of the Torah portion; You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal your God, am holy.

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