Ariel Ben Avraham

Parshat Kedoshim: The holiness of God’s love

The description of purity and impurity relevant in the Torah to contextualize their aspects and messages, and the emphasis is both in avoiding impurity in all levels of consciousness and pursuing purity as the means to maintain closeness with the Creator. Again, this is reiterated at the beginning of Kedoshim.

“Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, ‘You shall be holy for I, the Lord your God, am holy’.” (Leviticus 19:2)

We know that the 248 positive and 365 negative commandments of the Torah are aimed to make us pure and clean in our journey in the material world. Hence, we must constantly evaluate the nature of our individual reality or realities, what do they encompass, their origin and their purpose, and draw conclusions regarding what we consider positive and negative in our life.

We have said countless times in this blog that our predicament in the material world is to exercise free will amid true and false, useful and useless, good and bad, etc. We also said that discernment is a compelling precondition to be truly able to choose between truth and illusion.

In this awareness we are capable to assimilate what the Torah tells us regarding pure and impure, and also instructs us to do it in relation to our fellow human beings.

Our sages spent a sizable amount of their lives to teach us how to conduct ourselves before our peers and our immediate surroundings. These are the circumstances in which we observe not only the Ten Commandments but all the commandments of the Torah.

We must understand our Creator’s holiness in terms of what is holy in us. Proclaiming that He is our God and that He is holy should not a “one way street”. This is one of the reasons that in Hebrew the verb to pray is reflexive, and not an active or passive expression. It is something that we do with ourselves and for ourselves, for our own sake.

This action requires a thoughtful and mindful approach to ourselves in relation to our Creator, and this means that in our prayer we are together as one with Him. In this sense, the first commandment of the Decalogue is not only about God but about our connection with Him: the One who brought us out of Egypt, the house of bondage. He is the Creator of all, who by His love redeems us from what keeps us tied and bound to that which denies, oppresses, exploits and undermines who we really are.

Our God defines Himself for us in His first commandment not as an abstract God to His people. He tells us in His Torah how to know Him through His works, ways and attributes: He is our sole redeemer, and shows us how He does it. He is not just God, He is who liberates us from all bondage and exiles.

The Creator of all, our God, is One and therefore there is no space in our consciousness for us to dare conceiving “other gods”, and these include “idols from which our eyes go astray”.

We have said that the Hebrew semantic root of the word “idols” also means molds as masks, and from this we learn that wearing masks as adopted molds to think, feel, speak and act, simply represents what we are not in essence.

In other words, the second commandment not to have idols or gods means that our identity is defined by our relationship with the one and only God, as stated in the first commandment. This implies that anything different from His ways and attributes must be rejected by us.

In this sense, the idols are those we consider, think, feel or believe that are superior to us and worthy to be revered, followed, and even feared. This predicament is exactly our main problem because this kind of mentality is the root of our isolation, pain, suffering and fall.

In order to get out of such predicament, again we must use our discernment and mindfully identify the nature of our “idols”, the addictions to fantasies and illusions created either by ignorance or simply by ego’s materialistic desires.

Is it glamour, fashion, sophistication, make-believe, arrogance, lust, impudence, indolence, greed, coveting, and their derivatives? And, if so, from where they come from? Do they come from a sense or feeling of lack? Or misguided desires? And, if so, are they part of who we really are, part of our true Essence and identity?

What went wrong that led us astray from the One and only God who is our sole redeemer? Is it the social, cultural and ideological establishment that tells us who we are and what to think, feel, desire, speak and act, as well as the way they educate us in the schools and universities?

It must be something out there, because none of that is in the Torah and none of that is part of God’s ways and attributes.

In this state of affairs we must discern about what is clean and unclean, holy and profane. In this discernment we indeed understand what does it mean “You shall be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy”.

This is how we grasp what the Torah means with the words “God created them in His image and likeness”, because His works, ways and attributes are such image and likeness that we are supposed to be, have and manifest as long as we are fully aware of Him as our God.

In this awareness we realize the meaning of being holy. Hence, the commandment of being holy precedes the Ten Commandments as the obvious premise to approach our connection with God in general, and our relationship with our fellow men in particular.

In all this we realize the sacredness of God’s love as His ways and attributes, and our love for Him and our neighbors as the material manifestation of His love.

God created us as an emanation of His love, and through His love we are able to emulate His ways and attributes as described in the Torah. Thus we realize the holiness of His love and our love, and in this connection we are completely aware that He is our God who brought us out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage, because God loves us. In His love, He also tells us that anything different from His ways and attributes are idols with which we deny love as our common bond with Him.

In this bond we don’t take His name in vain, we observe and protect the Shabbat, we honor our fathers and mothers, we don’t murder, we don’t steal, we don’t bear false witness, we don’t covet, and we follow the rest of the Torah’s commandments with the same approach of sacredness.

This is the awareness represented by Jerusalem as the highest knowledge of our bond with the Creator, and this is why we have to rebuild our consciousness through His love, as it’s written.

“On that day I will erect David’s fallen booth [succah], I will repair its branches and erect its ruins, and I will rebuild it as in days of old, so that they [the children of Israel] will conquer the remnant of Edom and all the nations, for My Name is upon them, the words of the Lord who bring this about.” (Amos 9:11-12)

Hence, we must allow His ways and attributes as the foundations and rulers of all levels of consciousness, our booth. In the awareness of His love as our essence and identity we are empowered to conquer and redirect the remaining negative aspects of consciousness (Edom and the nations).

Thus we realize that His name, His love, is upon us as our true essence. This is the way we are holy, because our God is holy.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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