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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3

Jerusalem

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LEVITICUS — 19:2 community

Something fundamental happens at the beginning of Parashat Kedoshim, whose story is one of the greatest, if unacknowledged, contributions of Judaism to the world. Until now Leviticus has been largely about sacrifices, purity, the Sanctuary, and the priesthood. It has been, in short, about a holy place, holy offerings, and the elite and holy people--Aaron and his descendants--who minister there. Suddenly, in chapter nineteen, the text opens up to embrace the whole of the people in the whole of life: "The L-rd said to Moses, 'Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: be holy because I, the L-rd your G-d, am holy'" [this and preceding verse]. This is the first and only time in Leviticus that so inclusive an address is commanded. The sages said that it meant that the contents of the chapter were proclaimed by Moses to a formal gathering of the entire nation (hak'hel). It is the people as a whole who are commanded to "be holy," not just an elite, the priests. It is life itself that is to be sanctified, as the chapter goes on to make clear. Holiness is to be made manifest in the way the nation makes its clothes and plants its fields, in the way justice is administered, workers are paid, and business conducted. The vulnerable – – the deaf, the blind, the elderly, and the stranger – – are to be afforded special protection. The whole society is to be governed by love, without resentment or revenge. What we witness here in other words, is the radical democratization of holiness.
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LEVITICUS — 19:2 holy

… there is a special kind of holiness that Jews are commanded to fulfill: making G-d's name holy. G-d equates Jews becoming holy with His holiness, and the commandment to be holy stems from G-d's Holiness. Thus, part of a Jew's holiness is attained by making G-d's name holy [this verse and Leviticus 20:26]. In addition, there is both a positive commandment to make G-d's name holy and a negative commandment not to desecrate G-d's name (Leviticus 22:32). This is achieved in the way in which a Jew behaves on an individual basis in daily life. If, by a Jew's action, people will think better of the Jewish G-d, that is a sanctification of G-d's name, making it holy. If, however, people will think worse of the Jewish G-d because of the action of a particular individual, that person has desecrated the name and holiness of G-d. (For further development of this mitzvah, see the chapter "Purpose of Life.") Thus, holiness of a person is also reflected in how people perceive G-d because of that person.
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LEVITICUS — 19:2 holy

Another approach to holiness is the one most people think of when asked to describe the concept. This is the view of Rashi, who describes holiness in his commentary to [this verse]. Rashi says abstain from illicit sexual activity. It seems from Rashi that one achieves holiness by abstaining from those things forbidden to the Jew. This is classic Christian definition of holiness as well. The more one denies the bodily pleasures, the more one becomes holy. Long before Christianity existed, this concept existed in Judaism. As noted earlier, the illicit sexual activity with a prostitute is associated philologically with the Hebrew term for holiness. Similarly, the Torah states that the purpose of the laws of kashrut are to attain holiness (See chapter "Food" for a further examination of this idea). Thus, abstention from the two basic physical drives of man, sex and food, leads a person to holiness, according to this idea of holiness.
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LEVITICUS — 19:2 holy

Holiness is attained by living among other people. G-d commanded Moshes to state this verse in front of "the entire congregation," that is, in assembly, because the majority of the essentials of the Torah are summarized herein. (Sifra cited by Rashi). The Chasam Sofer commented that to attain holiness we need not be isolated and withdrawn from the rest of society. On the contrary, the admonition to be holy was stated in assembly. A person must learn how to sanctify himself by behaving properly amongst people. (Otzer Chayim, vol. 3, p. 114).
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LEVITICUS — 19:2 holy

Judaism rules out the deification and all worship of saints. Holy men are witnesses unto G-d, but not gods. They are not divine, but pathfinders to the Divine life. Their virtues light up the dark avenues of human life. In some ages their examples make a stronger appeal than in others. Only in G-d can each generation, in accordance with its own needs and lights, find the embodiment of its supreme aspirations and ideals, in G-d not as reflected in the life of one outstanding personality, but in Himself, super–personal, infinite and holy. Hence the call of Judaism: [this verse]. To become G-dlike is the highest aim of man. See M. Lazarus, The Ethics of Judaism, pp. 111ff.
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LEVITICUS — 19:2 holy

Nahmanides in his commentary on [this verse]: "The Torah exhorts us against sexual immorality and against eating forbidden foods, but permits sexual intercourse between husband and wife and eating meat and drinking wine. Hence, the licentious individual may thus permit himself all kinds of indulgences with his wife … and be among the imbibers of wine and the gluttons for meat, and speak profanities, since these are not specifically forbidden in the Torah. He could then conceivably be a disreputable individual without violating any laws of the Torah. Therefore, the Torah, after detailing the things completely forbidden us, commands us in these general terms to be restrained even in matters permitted to us." The ethical concept cannot define with exactitude just how far we may go in indulging in the legally permitted. It can only alert us to the truth that even the legally permissible becomes ethically repulsive at a certain point. The responsibility for fixing that point rests essentially with each individual, whose moral stature is largely molded by the boundaries he fixes for himself in his pursuit of the legally permissible.
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