Parashat Kedoshim

The Nature Of Holiness

The commandment to be holy raises questions about our responsibilities towards community and our relationships with God.

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D'var Torah

If someone were to ask you "Are you a holy person?" how would you respond? Most of us don't usually think of ourselves as holy people, but in the context of this week's parashah, the question is not only meaningful, it is also crucial.

The parashah begins with an exhortation to be holy as God is holy and then lists the ways we can become so. Right in the very middle of the Torah scroll, we find a set of instructions on how to be holy. It is a biblical code of conduct known as the "Holiness Code." It begins with respect for our parents and our God and then proceeds to laws governing our relationship with our fellow human beings. We are instructed not to insult the deaf nor to place a stumbling block before the blind. We are commanded to be fair in our judgments and in our business dealings.

Being holy is not defined by synagogue attendance or by outward signs of piety. Nor is it a matter of ritual practice or personal attitude. Holiness can be found only in our relationships with other people. It is revealed when we are just and compassionate. It is manifest when we are respectful of others and ethical in our behavior.

So, how would you respond to the question: Are you a holy person?

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Stuart Binder is the cantor at Congregation Beth Chaim in Princeton Junction, N.J.