The Hebrew word “Kadosh” means “Holy.” If you were to ask people what it means to be holy, most everyone will say something along the lines of to “be like a saint”, to be “serious”, or to be “pious and religious.” The one thing you most likely will not hear is “to be separated,” yet that is really what being holy means- to be separated from the common.
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Holiness is a state of being which is identified by the way we act towards each other and the way we obey God’s instructions. Too often, this means the instructions given by people in the name of the Lord, which we call doctrine or traditional worship. Most of the time these aren’t exactly what God told us to do. Christian holidays and worship practices, for instance, or Talmudic (also referred to as rabbinic) Halacha (the Way to Walk) are good examples of this. The traditional teachings of any Judeo-Christian religion usually have their foundation somewhere in God’s instructions, but they add to or (sometimes) over-rule the instructions God gave us, which are found in the Torah.
This parashah gives us, in clear and easily understandable terms, God’s instructions telling us how we are to be holy. They boil down to respect for people, honesty, honoring the Shabbat and following the instructions regarding sacrifices, and (finally) prohibitions against following the religious and social practices of the surrounding people at that time. Those prohibitions include sexual perversities and inter-familial sexual relations, as well.
God tells us (more than once) to be holy as he is holy. Even at the very beginning of this parashah, Leviticus 19:2 he has Moses tell the entire congregation that they are to be holy, for he is the LORD, their God and he is holy. The problem we have with this is that we cannot be holy as the Lord is holy because, well…he is SO holy. He is perfectly holy, and we are woefully inadequate, so how can God expect us to be as holy as he is?
The answer is he doesn’t expect that of us- he expects that because he is our God, and because he is holy, we should be holy, as well. We are not to be as holy as he is, but holy meaning separated from the unholy. That means not doing what the unholy do, such as to treat each other with disrespect and take advantage of people. We are not to use unequal weights (cheat each other), we are not to use divination or sacrifice our children. We are not to have sexual relations with close family members, or with others of the same gender. We are to honor the elderly, honor the Shabbat, be considerate of the less fortunate and treat strangers with respect and equality under the law.
To be holy doesn’t mean to walk around like some monk or religious fanatic; it doesn’t mean to talk in spiritual ways (so that no one can understand what you are saying), and it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t joke around, dance, drink or have fun with others. It means you are to live in a way that is separated from the unholy- that is all.
Holy people do not gamble their rent money away; holy people do not drink themselves into a stupor; they don’t act mean and unforgiving. Holy people do not cheat others, gossip or allow anyone else to pick on the weak and helpless. Holy people help others, even if the others hate and disrespect them.
To be holy as God is holy means to act in the way God (or Yeshua, for that matter) would act if they were in the same place at the same time you are.
It means to be separated from the rest of the world, not so much physically but spiritually and demonstratively. We who are holy are to show the unholy how they are to be; we are to be an example of what God wants from everyone. That is a two-edged sword because when we say we are holy as God is holy, then if we screw up and act unholy it reflects poorly on God. I am guilty of this, and more often than I care to say, but I have to confess that I often do not act as one who is holy should act. When that happens, I ask forgiveness from God because I have damaged his reputation. I really hate it when I do that, too. Fortunately, I am able to say that I am making fewer mistakes as I continue to work towards being holy. It is a life-long activity.
Be thou holy by remembering God’s instructions and trying to live up to them. We hear people say “It is all about the Lord!” but when it comes down to it, they are really concerned with what God will do for them and not what he wants them to do for him. It isn’t about us, it IS about him, and the way to show that is to be what he wants us to be, which is separated from the unholiness in the world. Not in a physical way, meaning to shun and stay away from non-Believers, but in our spirit and in our actions so we can be examples to the non-Believers.
God instructed us how to worship and how to live with others, and when Yeshua was on the earth he showed us exactly what that looks like. The world doesn’t see the spiritual, it sees the physical, so no matter how holy you may be in your spirit if you don’t demonstrate that in the physical world, then you won’t be holy the way God wants you to be holy.
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Tonight begins the Shabbat so Shabbat Shalom, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!