“Ye shall be holy; for I, the Lord thy God, am holy”
Powerful words, and the first words of this week’s Torah reading (parashah.) It is not a command to be as holy as God is, but to be holy because God is our God and He is holy.
To be holy doesn’t mean to be better, as a better person or a better Believer, but to be separated. To not do what others do, which may end up making us better, in a way. Better at being kind, better at being forgiving, better at being compassionate. Those are things which we should be ‘better’ at doing than others, and as such, we will be separated from the world.
The world is a cursed place, and those that live in it cannot avoid it. Just like walking through a field of sheep- no matter how carefully you step, eventually you will step into something. Living in the world, and having the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) from birth, we will step in more than just one something during our lifetime. We will wallow in it, at one time or another. That’s part of living, and even though we may be covered in dirt, we don’t have to be dirty. We can have dirt on our bodies but not be thinking dirty thoughts; we can carry the smell of the world on us but not be of the world.
It’s a tough balancing act, and we have God’s word and the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) as our balancing pole to keep us on that high wire.
This parashah is all about being holy- it is the User’s Manual for holiness. Leviticus 19:18 is what Yeshua based His entire ministry on: love your neighbor as you love yourself. Yeshua said that on this commandment, and also on the commandment to love God, pivot all the rest of the commandments and the lessons from the Prophets. If we truly love God, then we have no choice but to love each other, and when you love someone you do whatever you can to make them happy, to not hurt them (although we end up doing that anyway, don’t we?) and to forgive them.
To err is human; to forgive, divine. You’ve heard that, and I’m sure often, but did you ever think about how biblically accurate it is? It is, in essence, what we learn from the Torah- we are sinners who are sinful, but we also have the ability to rise above our nature and be more like God than like other people.
These chapters instruct us in moral laws, ritual laws, duties towards others, consideration for the needy, and prohibitions against hatred and violence towards each other.
Even the Christians who teach that ‘Jews have Torah and Christians have the Blood of Christ’ (who, by the way, taught everyone to obey the Torah) can agree that the laws in this part of Leviticus are still valid for everyone.
If you haven’t read these last chapters of Leviticus, please do so! Start in 18 and go to the end. It isn’t that hard to do, and if you have to miss one of your TV shows, tape the show or let it go. This IS more important.
The parashot from here to the end of this book tell us how to treat each other and how to act as God acts, which is all He wants from us. As Moshe said, it isn’t too hard to do, it isn’t so far away we can’t get to it or need to send someone to bring it to us; it is right here, within reach.
God’s hand is always stretched out to meet our hand when we stretch our hand out to Him, and the means to reach God is to read and honor His Torah. When I say to honor the Torah, I don’t mean to just recognize it as a wonderful thing; when I say to honor the Torah, I mean you must obey it to the best of your ability. No!- not to the best of your ability, beyond your best! Too often saying ,”To the best of my ability” is already admitting failure. You need to live beyond what you are able to do: that is why we have been given the Ruach HaKodesh.
Humanly it is impossible to live beyond what we are, but with God, all things are possible. The Ruach is from and of God, and it lives in you, in me, and in all those who profess Yeshua is the Messiah and accept Him as their Savior. That is the only way to get past the flesh, and it is only available to those that do T’shuvah (turning from sin) and ask for it with a broken spirit and a contrite heart.
Everything you need to be happy is here, in the Torah, and especially (I believe) in these few chapters, which form the very foundation of Yeshua’s ministry. If you want to be happy, these chapters tell you how.