12 May 2016
What an extraordinarily rich parasha this week! Kedoshim begins with “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” It continues to explore the varieties of holiness through action and dealings with others, including: leaving the corners of crop fields for the poor, not defrauding our neighbors and not “cursing the deaf, nor putting a stumbling block before the blind.” Finally we read, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself. I am Adonai.”
This is the Golden Rule. But commentators have asked whether it is really possible to exert such control over our emotions to the point of “loving” all our neighbors? Perhaps this is why Hillel famously paraphrased this commandment as, “What is hateful to you, do not do unto others.” It is our actions that we can control, and it is through our actions – and our relationship with God – that we find holiness.
This past two weeks, replete with “yoms” – Yom HaShoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) offered us a chance to reflect on the actions of others (the barbarity of the Nazis, the bravery of Holocaust survivors and resistance fighters; the selfless acts of bravery of Israeli soldiers who gave their lives so that Israel may live on). It also reminds us that our actions today will live on in the future.
By standing strong with Israel, we help secure her future. By standing with – and taking care of – Holocaust survivors, we take a firm position against revisionism of – and repeating – history. It’s been said that Judaism is a religion of action more than it is a religion of faith. That may or may not be true, depending on your perspective. But what is certain – to me at least – is that it is through our actions that we shape our community. Acting with integrity, kavod (respect) and honesty are crucial, as is Hillel’s admonition that we not do hateful things unto others. We are created b’tzelem Elohim (in the image of God) and according to this week’s Torah portion – by our actions – we, too, can be holy.