This double Parashah deals with the rules regarding Yom Kippur, then gives us regulations and commandments regarding appropriate inter-personal relationships, such as moral standards against incest, adultery, and homosexuality (to name a few.)
Of all the laws and commandments, rules and regulations within these chapters of the Torah, the most important (and maybe best known) is Leviticus 19:18:
” Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of the people, but shall love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord”
This one statement is the foundation for three of the most important teachings of Yeshua:
- To not take vengeance is in accordance with Yeshua’s teaching that we should turn the other cheek;
- To not bear a grudge is what Yeshua taught us when He said to leave our sacrifice at the alter and first make things right with our brother if there is any animosity between us;
- To love they neighbor as thyself is, clearly, the Golden Rule.
Here we have the basis for nearly every moral law and action we need in order to become Kadosh, holy, as God is holy.
I have read articles and seen TV shows that try to degrade the value of these moral and ethical laws, saying they weren’t originally from God because they existed in other, older civilizations. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t- it would seem likely they were already being practiced by others, to some degree, because they are so basic to civilized living. But no where else had there been a written set of laws that were so humane regarding how people should treat each other, whether in inter-personal relationships or under a penal code.
Today some of these laws are questioned, even rejected, by society. We are told some are misogynistic, some are racist, some are hateful (this is usually used against the laws against homosexuality) and some are outdated.
Outdated? Since when did morality and ethical treatment of each other become outdated? Well, you know, maybe they’re right: when I read the papers or hear the news, whether local or international, it seems that society’s morality and ethics are being defined by those that have none. The way God wants us to act towards each other isn’t the way the world wants us to act.
Despite the many good laws still on the books, how many loopholes are there now that allow lawbreakers to go free, or barely suffer for their crimes? And when they do go to jail, instead of being given a chance to repent, they are just receiving a higher education in criminality. A person may go to jail as a beginner, but he or she can come out with a PhD in crime, learning from the experienced criminals that are already there.
Yeshua told us how to be holy: love God and love each other. That isn’t always easy; in fact, sometimes it seems darn near impossible! But we can get better at doing this as we keep trying. Maybe that is what makes us holy? trying to do what God wants instead of not even caring what He wants. Being holy isn’t having an aura around you, or a halo over your head- it simply means being separated. The world doesn’t care what God wants, so if we care, and demonstrate that care through our words and actions, then (by definition) we are holy. And the more we do, the better we get at it, and the holier we become.
That’s the ticket- care about what God wants, and care more for what He wants than for what the world, or even you, want. If we can do that, all these morale and ethical rules and regulations will automatically fall into place for us.
That’s what Yeshua meant in the second part of His teaching: love God and each other, for on that pivots all the Prophets and the Writings.