• Jeff

The Holiness Code

This week’s parsha is a double parsha with the first one beginning in Leviticus 16:1 and going through 18:30, called Acharei Mot meaning "After Death". And the second one, KedoShim, meaning "Holy Ones" is Lev 19:1-20:27.

Our focus in this Shabbat Thought is Leviticus 19 and is referred to as part of the holiness code.

Leviticus 19 is the center chapter of the Torah and has been called a "mini-Torah" within the Torah. Many of its verses and most of its principles are quoted or referenced throughout the prophets and the New Testament. Leviticus 19:18 for example is what Yeshua referred to as the second greatest commandment which is like the first, "to love your neighbor as yourself."

This code is the one that forms the basis of much of the moral law and legal systems of the ancients as well as our own legal system in America. Within these few verses G-d himself gives to mankind a way to live life in peace and harmony with each other and with Him.

Modern day theology is rooted from the 4th century C.E. and does not consider the Sinai covenant as part of our "new covenant". Well meaning people proclaim Yeshua fulfilled this covenant and in a sense nullified the need for the Sinai covenant. Due to this we are not well versed in these verses.

For that among other reasons we find ourselves at a loss in interpreting the New Testament and in living life with the peace G-d offers.

I would encourage each of our readers to take some time and meditate on the verses of this chapter in detail. A wealth of knowledge is waiting to be discovered.

We will only look at singular example of this knowledge in today's thought.

Leviticus 19:1-2

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy."

A couple of questions can help us discover the power of these verses. Who is being addressed? Does this passage apply to us?

Remember a key adage; the Bible was written for us but not to us.

This passage is written specifically to the congregation of the sons of Israel. The Hebrew word here is עֵדָה ʿēḏâ. This word means congregation, assembly, multitude, people. It can mean a special appointed meeting of people or a family gathering. In other words, it is a word that simply means everyone who was there with Israel.

Therefore the passage is for all people who would gather together under the banner of Israel. These would be the commands to those people and by extension to us as well. You may wonder how this could apply to us since you and I were not there physically and since you and I are not citizens of the country of Israel?

Those of us who have made the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Israel our G-d through Yeshua the son and by atonement of His blood, are now part of Israel and therefore would come under the same holiness code and law as those that were there that day.

There are many laws that those who are traveling to America may not have in there home country. But when here they must adhere to those laws. If I were to travel to England for example, they have a different weapons law then we have here in America. I must adhere to that law instead of my home country law when I am in that land.

Likewise, all that are at Sinai and those that would travel and build a home in the promise land of Israel will be required to obey these laws. By extension then, we can say that those who are of the commonwealth of Israel would also be the recipient of these holiness codes as if we had been there.

What is the first command here? Be holy for I the L-rd your G-d am holy.

The word Holy is קָדוֹשׁ qāḏôš. This word has several meanings. Generally it is said this means to be "set apart".

In the ancient Semitic languages such as Akkadian, this word carried the definition of both to purify and to clean. This referred to cleaning of places, such as temples, people, such as priest and animals for sacrifice. It even referred to the gods as becoming clean.

In Hebrew, it specifically meant to be pure or to make clean and referred to buildings, animals, days, and people. This idea carried more than just a simple holiness. Literally it would mean that there was in engagement in time (days), space (buildings and homes), spirit and soul (people) where mankind and G-d would connect.

Hebraic thought understood that holiness was not inherent in the creation but came by the creator and at His dictates and commands. G-d is the origin of holiness and it resides in His nature and character.

Therefore as animals, places, and people related to G-d, they could then be holy. Due to relationship with G-d, holiness was and still is possible. Without that relationship, holiness is impossible. The laws given in chapter 19 are from the point of view that the people who would follow them were doing so in concert with G-d rather than as an act to appease or please G-d.

This is a serious distinctive feature of our faith. We do not act, behave or obey these laws to become holy. We are acting within relationship to our Father and through the process of obedience we are made holy. Holiness is the ultimate partnership between man and G-d.

Righteousness is a gift of grace and cannot be obtained by human effort. Righteousness is given by blood atonement and must be received by faith. Holiness on the other hand is a command from G-d and requires the partnership of man and G-d working together.

Holiness then is the theme of this chapter and the center piece of the Torah. Holiness is in some respects and could arguably be one of the top goals of the Sinai covenant. If that is true, then to disregard the Sinai covenant is to disregard the "Holiness Code" that G-d gave to mankind. The holiness of mankind as expressed through G-d is repeated several times throughout the Bible:

Leviticus 11:44,-45, 20:26, 1 Peter 1:15-16, 1 Cor 3:16-17.

Hebrews 12:14 actually says without holiness no one will see the L-rd.

We are called to walk in Holiness and as you read and study this chapter you will discover how holiness looks. Enjoy the journey with G-d.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Jeff

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