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Striving for Holiness in the Everyday

In Parshat Kedoshim, we find a plethora of mitzvot. HaShem tells us “You shall each revere his mother and his father,” “Keep My sabbaths,” and “Do not steal” (Lev. 19:3, 19:11). If these mitzvot sound familiar, you are not alone. They are very reminiscent of the Aseret HaDibrot. No less than seven of the Ten Commandments have direct parallels in Parshat Kedoshim. There is a midrash that goes even further and identifies all ten of the Aseret HaDibrot scattered throughout other mitzvot of our parsha (Vayikra Rabbah 24:5)

The obvious question is why. Why does the Torah repeat that which we already know? The answer lies in an examination of the broader context of both series of pesukim.

HaShem presented the Aseret HaDibrot at the most enthralling moment in the entire history of Bnei Yisrael. At Matan Torah there was an unprecedented intimacy between Bnei Yisrael and HaShem. It was a time of intense religious devotion. At that moment when HaShem said “Do not steal”, no one could even begin to contemplate breaking that command. The world for Bnei Yisrael at the time was black and white. 

We are now very far away from matan Torah and live in the gray. Parshat Kedoshim comes after the details of the korbanot, after the details of tumah and tahara, and after the details of kashrut. Our parsha comes after the details of how to apply HaShem’s mitzvot in the real world. On an intellectual level, we all know what is right and what is wrong, but when it comes to applying that in the real world, things can sometimes get a little murky. It is all too easy to slip. In our day to day lives, when we may not feel directly in God’s presence, that is the time when we have to be the most careful.

It is for this reason that God exhorts to “be holy” (Lev. 19:2). The Torah is telling us that the path to becoming holy is doing what is right, not only when we are experiencing our highest moments of religiosity, but even more so when we are engaging in our daily routine activities. By internalizing these commands, let us strive to be truly worthy to be called kadosh.

Shabbat Shalom.

This essay is part of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah’s weekly parsha wisdom. Each week, graduates of YCT share their thoughts on the parsha, refracted through the lens of their rabbinates and the people they are serving, with all of us.

About the Author
Rabbi Jason Goldstein teaches Talmud and Chumash at Berman Hebrew Academy outside Washington DC. He received semicha from YCT in 2020.
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