Parshat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Parshat Acharei Mot Kedoshim

The Parashiot of Acharei Mot and Kedoshim continue the topics of Tumah (spiritual impurity) and Tahara (spiritual purity) that were discussed in last week’s double perasha. Throughout Acharei Mot, we are given many rules regarding specific actions such as offerings in the temple, rules addressing Yom Kippur, and lastly rules regarding certain sexual prohibitions. The entire perasha is focusing on this theme of Tumah and Tahara and the rules for these mitzvot that are mentioned in the perasha fall in line with the rules of Tumah and Tahara.

Juxtaposed to Acharei Mot is Kedoshim. And right from the start, it follows up on what Acharei Mot was saying. This is one of the reasons it follows Acharei Mot. The first pasuk reads, “Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy (Kedoshim), for I, the Lord your God, am holy (Kadosh).” (Vayikra 19:1-2). In Acharei Mot, we are told to act holy as made evident by all of the rules in the perasha. Why then must Kedoshim repeat this decree? I suggest that the reason for Kedoshim to explicitly give us this order of being Kadosh is to tell us that we always have to act holy, not just in the cases listed in Acharei Mot. Also, this repetition tells us exactly what kedusha is.

Rashi on this pasuk tells us that it means to be Kadosh. But to understand what he is said, we have to know what the word Kadosh means. Most people translate Kadosh as “holy.” But what does that mean? If we look at other places where the word Kadosh comes up, such as kidush for Shabbat on Friday night, we see that it actually means to be set aside, or separated. When we are saying kidush, we are separating between the regular weekdays, and Shabbat. Rashi explains that the mitzvah of acting Kadosh means to separate ourselves from the other nations; to be role models for them. We are supposed to be a light unto the nations after all. Being Kadosh means to follow Hashem and do his mitzvot, but at the same time being a separate nation, one with self control, and one that other nations could look up to.

The Ramban offers a different explanation. Of course we are supposed to follow the mitzvot and be an example. But to him, being Kadosh means something else. He understands being Kadosh to mean that we can enjoy from our world, but to do everything in moderation. One can go out to a nice restaurant and order a nice steak. However, one would not be acting Kadosh if he ate more to the point where it is considered gluttony. Being Kadosh means being able to enjoy from this world, but not too much where it would be considered disgusting.

We can learn how to live our lives from both definitions of being Kadosh. The Torah’s repeating of the theme of being Kadosh was meant to teach us how to live. With the mitzvot in both Acharei Mot and Kedoshim, the Torah is outlining for us the life we should be living and how we should act. That is, a life where we act as examples for the other nations. We achieve this by doing everything in moderation, and not doing things which society looks down upon by having self control. With Hashem’s help, we should all have the ability to be Kedoshim like Hashem, just as He wants us to be.

Student studying in Mevaseret