Shabbat is more than a day of refraining from worldly activity.

When experienced to its spiritual fullest, its holiness enlightens all other days of the week.

We invite you to enhance your Shabbat with these words of Torah.


Painting of the Kotel with lots of colors

Parashat Acharei Mot – Kedoshim: A Holy Life

Parashat Acharei Mot – Kedoshim: A Holy Life

Richman, Rabbi Chaim
May 2, 2023

The command in Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:2 to “be holy” involves engaging actively and ethically in the world rather than withdrawing from it.

Holiness is achieved by regulating material desires, particularly in areas like food and sexuality, and by treating others with integrity and respect. This approach allows individuals to reflect divine holiness in everyday life, aligning their actions with God’s will and elevating their spiritual existence.

“Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them,

You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”

(Vayikra 19:2)

“How can a human being attempt to strive for a level of holiness that is based on, or compared to, God’s holiness? We are material beings and live in a material world, in a world of material desires…

[We are required to emulate] God’s holiness not by disconnecting from this world, but to broadcast a message of holiness through every aspect of the life lived in this world.

Israel is enjoined not to withdraw from the life that the Living God empowers and bestows, but on the contrary, THIS life that emanates from God is to be cherished and enjoyed, and we give thanks for all the beauty of this world.

We are commanded to sanctify ourselves through life itself, in the very midst of this world, in the thick of it. And by doing so, we can draw down sanctity on ourselves from above.”

“The Sifra explains [that] ‘Be holy’ [means to] be separate, [meaning] that our material desires for the material pleasures of this world need to be properly restrained and controlled. Maimonides… in his Sefer Kedusha – The Book of Holiness, presents the Torah laws in only two specific areas of life: what constitutes proper and improper conduct in sexual relationships and the laws of forbidden foods.

[In] these two particular areas are the desires that pull a person, that hold gravitational sway over a person’s baser material nature more than any other because they most directly address and appeal to our physicality. So proper separation in these two areas more than any other brings [one] to holiness.

Why do the strongest desires manifest [specifically in these two areas]? Because they are both imperative to the continuation of the world. They are the most intrinsic components for the continuation of the life of mankind… But a person’s conduct precisely in these two areas can express singular holiness because by sanctifying himself in dealing with these intrinsic desires and channeling them so that they remain within the framework of God’s Will, he can emulate his creator.”

“The mitzvot ‘bein adam l’chaveiro’, the commandments of proper conduct between man and his fellow man… also express holiness.

So holiness is not only expressed by separation from the forbidden foods and from forbidden sexual relations. Holiness is also [reflected] by a person’s personal conduct; how one behaves with others, which in turn is a reflection of who a person really is…

The commandments that apply in the behaviour of man and his fellows… are [also] included in the main commandments of holiness… precisely because the whole concept of holiness as defined by separation really means setting a higher standard than the generally accepted norm.”



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