This double-parashah begins with the regulations for the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) when observing the Holy Day of Yom Kippur.
In Chapter 17, God tells us that any sacrifice must be made at the tabernacle, otherwise, the person sacrificing will be cut off from his people.
Chapter 18 gives us the prohibitions against familial sexual relationships, clearly stating that any sexual relationship with any close relative is forbidden.
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The parashah Kedoshim deals with holiness, starting with God’s commandment that we should be holy because he is holy, i.e. we should emulate God. God reviews the laws regarding sacrifice, duties towards others, fundamental moral and ritual laws, and the most important of these is Leviticus 19:18, which is what Yeshua also repeated as one of the two most important commandments of all: to love your neighbor as yourself. The other being, of course, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.
One commandment that is repeated in both parashot is the prohibition against sacrificing children to Molech. This is clearly an abomination to God, and he says sacrificing children is something that never even entered his mind.
Here’s an interesting bit of information for those that may not know: if you have ever seen a Jewish man praying, you will see that as he prays he is also davening, which is a rhythmic swaying front to back. I have always heard that this act goes back to the Cohen HaGadol when he is in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, the only time he is allowed to be in there. The robe he wears has, all along the bottom hem, pomegranates and bells, so when he davens you can hear the bells ringing. On Yom Kippur, if the sacrifices are not done correctly or the Cohen HaGadol is not properly cleansed, when he enters the Holy of Holies he will die. By swaying back and forth as he prays, the ones outside can hear the bells ringing to indicate that he is still alive. They even tied a rope to his ankle so that if he did die, they could pull him out of there without violating the sanctity of the Holy of Holies. That is why, to this very day, when a Jewish man is praying, he stands and sways back and forth.
One continuing theme we see throughout the Tanakh is that God doesn’t totally destroy the children of Israel, even when they reject his sovereignty, violate his Torah and do unspeakable abominations before him. God constantly punished their sins, and after they repented, accepted them back; but, the truth be told, he had every right, both morally and legally (under the terms of the covenants) to totally destroy them.
Every sinful and detestable thing God said we shouldn’t do in these chapters was done, and not just once or twice, but regularly and for centuries, by both the northern and southern kingdoms. So why didn’t God just get rid of these stiff-necked and rebellious children and start over?
The most likely answer I expect to hear is that God is a compassionate and loving God, slow to anger and quick to forgive. After all, that is what he told Moses in Exodus 34:6-7, isn’t it?
Well, that isn’t the reason God gave.
Reading the Haftorah portion for the parashah Kedoshim, which is Ezekiel 20, God tells us exactly why he didn’t destroy the people when they were in the desert, which I believe was the same reason he has never destroyed us, as we often deserved. He told Ezekiel that he would have destroyed us except for the fact that because he took us out of Egypt by the power of his own hand, that for his name’s sake he relented on destroying us because it would have damaged his reputation with the nations that heard of his great power and works.
This is the same argument Moses used to keep God from destroying the people after their sin with the Golden Calf.
So God, who IS compassionate, understanding, and not just able to forgive but desiring to forgive, did not destroy the people because he didn’t want to spoil his reputation with the other nations.
It sounds very self-centered, doesn’t it? He didn’t destroy those who deserved it not because he is compassionate, and not because he is forgiving, but because he didn’t want to lose his street rep!
Hey, I’m the not one saying it was for selfish reasons, He is!
It appears that by saving the children of Israel from their slavery in Egypt and claiming them as his own, he sort of stuck himself with them. Now that he is their God, he has to deal with them and can’t do anything really bad to them because it would only ruin his reputation.
But is God really selfish? What is so important that he maintain the reputation he has with the other nations when it is really all about him and his people?
I believe God’s reputation throughout the world is one of the most important things there can ever be because only by recognizing the power and might and trustworthiness and holiness and ability to save that God, alone, can provide, there is no means for the Gentiles, the nations of the world, by which they can be saved.
When God made salvation available to the Gentiles, through the actions of the Messiah Yeshua, if they didn’t already have a good knowledge of who the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was, having heard of his power and ability to save his own people, they probably wouldn’t have paid any more attention to the Apostles than if they were hearing about any other god they already knew about.
The gods of the Romans and Greeks and Semitic tribes of the Middle East were also well known, but only the God of the Jewish people, by means of his reputation, held such awe with those who knew of his great power and majesty. And the Jewish people, themselves, as sinful as they had been over the centuries, demonstrated the compassion and trustworthiness of their God. In fact, it is the continual sin of the people, followed by their repentance, which has always shown how powerfully able God is to both punish and bless those who worship him. He saved when needed, he punished when deserved, he forgave when warranted, and he blessed when obedient.
Unlike any other god that existed, Adonai, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the one who anyone with any seykhl (Yiddish for common sense) wanted to be on your side.
So, even though God often forgave the people just to protect his reputation, which seems somewhat selfish, it wasn’t. God needed to protect his reputation in order to make salvation possible for the pagans who would, later on, be able to receive that salvation through the Messiah.
By protecting his reputation among the pagan nations, God was actually ensuring their opportunity to be saved from their sins, along with his own chosen people.
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Well, that’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!