Weekly Reading Insights

Kedoshim 5763

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Kedoshim
To be read on 1 Iyar 5763 (May 3)

Torah: Lev.19:1-20:27, Maftir Num. 28:9-15;
Haftorah: Isaiah 66 (Rosh Chodesh)

Pirkei Avot - Chapter Two

Shabbat Rosh Chodesh

: Kedoshim 7th Reading out of 10 in Leviticus and 30th overall, contains 13 positive mitzvot and 38 prohibitive mitzvot. It is written on 109 lines in a parchment Torah scroll, 49th out of 54 in overall length.

Kedoshim begins with a list of many different mitzvos by which the Jews are commanded to “be holy” (19/1). These include honoring parents, keeping Shabbos, the forbidding of idolatry, stealing, false testimony, perversion of justice, hating another Jew, bearing a grudge, mixing wool and linen in one garment, and more, including ‘love one’s neighbor as oneself’ (19/18). This list is then followed by another which concerns forbidden practices as in agricultural laws, consumption of blood, belief in omens, seeking out mediums, tattoos, immorality, removing a man’s sidelocks, and more. The Jews are also commanded to respect elders, have honest weights, loving converts, and a number of other mitzvos. The last section lists transgressions and their corresponding penalties.


You shall be holy... and My Sabbaths you shall keep (Leviticus 19:2,3)

You shall be holy: The meaning of "holy" is "separate" and "apart"; the Jew is distinguished from the non-Jew in all aspects of his life. This distinction must be apparent not only when one is involved in matters of Torah and mitzvot, but must be equally evident when engaging in those activities such as eating, drinking, sleeping, etc. that are seemingly shared with non-Jews.
And My Sabbaths you shall keep: The strength to do this is derived from Shabbat itself, for it reminds us that G-d's relationship with the Jewish people is super-rational and above the constraints of nature. This knowledge in itself grants us the ability to become involved in worldly matters in a manner of holiness and purity.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)



Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of Shney Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah, as translated, condensed, and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of the title, was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.


(adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Zefat on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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(W:30-63 )

The world is realizing the old Talmudic idea, "according to the effort is the reward", or a colloquial version, "no pain no gain". Personal change requires effort, so don't rely on quick fixes. One of the classic Jewish methods of personal change is the idea of making a periodic spiritual inventory. Chassidic lifestyle requires that this inventory be done daily, before sleep; monthly, at the end of a month; and twice yearly, on a birthday and before Rosh Hashanah.

Once, the Lubavitcher Rebbe suggested making this self-evaluation at the beginning of Iyar! Have we taken in the full impact of last month, Nissan, the month of redemption? By the end of Nissan we should have absorbed all the miracles of the month and be living in a redemptive state of mind!

Have we focused our perspective to see that both our own personal redemption and the final universal redemption are dependent on how we act? Are we ready to take this consciousness into the new month? Now that it is Iyar, if each of us will take the next step towards truly living Judaism, we will undoubtedly accomplish our goal. This idea is reflected in the first word of this week's Torah portion: "Kedoshim" - meaning sanctified and separate. The message is not to remove ourselves from the world, but rather to utilize our "Nissan" ability to elevate it and help it attain its full potential in this era of Mashiach! Jews are supposed to impact their environment - not the other way around. This Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat are a rare opportunity. Make the effort.

Rabbi Yechiel Michil of Zlotchov had certain important principles he felt should guide a person's life: First, we must search within our Torah learning for divine messages of better ways of serving G-d. Second, we must be mindful of the power of speech; Reb Michel was careful that his words not harm anyone, and he always emphasized that whatever he said to someone else was meant first for himself - if it did not apply to "Michel", then he questioned whether it applied to others at all.

He explained and asked us to picture that the source of all speech is in the supernal worlds, which descends to us via divine vessels. Humans are the final vessel and vehicle for the expression of speech. As custodians of this divine element, it is our important responsibility not to harm or taint the divine gift of speech. Furthermore, speech used for Torah study, and prayer can transform us for the better. Therefore, rather than being abused, our faculty of speech must be protected. If mistreated below, speech is affected in its source above.

Now, just as in the physical worlds our father and mother are our source in that they grant us life and provide for our needs, so too exist spiritual worlds called "father" (Abba) and "mother" (Imma). These are the spiritual sources of all other worlds, including the source of speech, which is subsequently actualized in our world when we talk.

This week's portion teaches us, "A person, his mother and father, he should be in awe of" (Lev. 19:3). This verse also hints to the "parents" of our speech. When, G-d forbid, one does not speak properly, it causes harm to this lofty source. We must respect this parent in order to maintain propriety. Through words of Torah, mitzvot and appropriate speech, we can actually repair misdeeds and positively affect ourselves.
Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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