Between Us: Let’s talk about making distinctions

Between Us

This week’s parasha is Sh’mini in the Book of Leviticus. There are two main themes which, at first, do not appear to be connected.  We read of how the priest Aaron and his sons become purified to do God’s work, and then we learn about the laws of kashrut and which animals we are permitted—and not permitted—to eat.

Commentators point out that the sections are indeed connected by the Jewish value of holiness (kedushah). Referring to Aaron and his sons, we read that they must learn to “make a distinction between the holy and the unholy, and between the clean and the unclean.”  In the section regarding kashrut, we are once again instructed to distinguish “between the unclean and the clean, between the animals that may be eaten and the animals that may not be eaten.”

The Hebrew word for “to make a distinction” is lehavdil, which comes from the same root as the word Havdalah—the Saturday night ceremony which distinguishes between Shabbat and the rest of the week. We make decisions—and distinctions—each and every day between good and evil, right and wrong, clean and unclean. Some decisions are relatively minor; others have a lasting impact and significant implications. As we make choices—minor and otherwise—let us strive to achieve holiness in our daily lives and in our daily actions.