The Torah portion, or parasha, this week is called Kedoshim and is found in Leviticus 19:1-20:27. This parasha opens with the global commandment that gives the Torah portion its name: “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” and many of the Torah’s basic teachings are to be found in these two chapters. It highlights the way to achieve the goals of national and individual holiness. Among the wide-ranging commandments are reverence for parents, observance of the Sabbath, and the prohibitions against idolatry and false oaths. Also included are laws about the requirement to leave gleanings and designated areas of fields unharvested for the hungry poor. Various forms of deception and fraud are prohibited, as well as withholding a worker’s wages. Exploiting the vulnerable is prohibited, specifically cursing the deaf and placing a stumbling block before the blind. Various aspects of justice are explored, including the requirement to favor neither the poor (out of sympathy) nor the rich (to curry favor), but to show deference to the elderly. The fundamental Jewish value of relating to the stranger with love and fairness is prescribed and linked to the Jewish national experience of being strangers in Egypt. The obligation for honest business practices, especially honest weights and measures, is also provided.
As we remember that we were once strangers in Egypt, may we be sensitive to those around us, work for justice, treat others fairly, live honestly, and always strive to make this world a better place. May we remember that the ability to be holy is often found in our ability to see holiness and worth in others.