Parshat Kedoshim 5782: Hashem’s Special Deviation From Norm — Torah’s Fundamental Lessons

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Kedoshim is being sponsored by Dr. Edo and Atara Lavi and family of Baltimore, Md. dedicated Lilui Nishmas for the Yahrtzeit of Atara’s Father Eliezer Chaim ben Shlomo Zalman. To the Lavi family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Kedoshim 5782: Hashem’s Special Deviation From Norm — Torah’s Fundamental Lessons

by Moshe Burt

Parshat Kedoshim, which in a regular year (with one Chodesh Adar) is leyned together with Parshat Acharei Mos, but is read on its own in this year of two Adars.

Torah records the opening posukim of Parshat Kedoshim:

“Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, ‘Speak to the entire assembly of B’nei Yisrael and say to them: You shall be holy, for holy am I, Hashem, your G’d.’” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posukim 1-2 as rendered to English in the Sapirstein Edition “The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary”)

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin writes context on these opening posukim in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Vayikra, pages 143-144):

The Rabbis note a surprising departure from the norm in the introductory sentence of Parshat Kedoshim: “Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, ‘Speak to the entire assembly of B’nei Yisrael and say to them…'” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posukim 1-2)

This phrase clearly contrasts with the usual formula used to introduce countless passages of Torah text: “Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: ‘Speak to the B’nei Yisrael and say to them…'”

The variation leads the Midrash to conclude that, at Hashem’s command, Parshat Kedoshim was taught to the B’nei Yisrael in an exceptional way.

Here, Rabbi Goldin notes:

The Rabbis explain that, normally Torah was given over to the Am Yisrael in a hierarchical manner; that Moshe learned directly from Hashem, and then recited the lesson to Aaron. Then Moshe recited the lesson to the sons of Aaron. Then the Elders entered and Moshe gave over the lesson to them. Then, with Aaron, his sons and the Elders assembled together, all the people entered and Moshe recited the lesson to them.:

This way, the people heard [the lesson] once, the Elders twice, Aaron’s sons three times and Aaron four times. (“Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Vayikra, page 143 citing Rashi on Shemot Perek 34, posuk 32, based on Talmud Bavli Eruvin 54b)

Rabbi Goldin continues:

The phrase “Speak to the entire assembly of B’nei Yisrael and say to them…” however indicates that, in the case of Parshat Kedoshim, the method of transmission changed. Parshat Kedoshim is of such singular importance, the Rabbis maintain, that it is taught b’hakhel, “in full assembly,” to the entire nation at once.

At Hashem’s command, all of Am Yisrael [all of the people] heard this portion of the law together, directly from Moshe because “most of the fundamental teachings of the Torah are derived therefrom.” (ibid, Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Vayikra Perek 19, posuk 2, based on Torat Kohanim, Kedoshim 1:1)

So, what were these fundamental Torah teachings? Rabbi Goldin enunciates many of them in his Parshat summary for Kedoshim (ibid, pages 142-143):

1/ “You shall fear, every man, his mother and his father; and you shall keep My Shabbos; I am Hashem, your G’d.”
2/ “You shall not steal; you shall not deny falsely; you shall not lie to one another.”
3/ “You shall not curse the deaf; and before the blind you shall not place a stumbling block. and you shall fear your G’d; I am Hashem.”
4/ “You shall not travel as a gossipmonger among your people; you shall not stand idly by the blood of your fellow; I am Hashem.”
5/ “You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall surely rebuke your fellow, and not bear sin because of him.”
6/ “You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge against the members of your people; and you shall love your fellow as yourself; I am Hashem.”

Included, as well, are ritual laws such as:

1/ Kilayim and Shaatnez: prohibitions concerning crossbreeding of animals, specific agricultural mixtures and the combination of certain fibers in clothing.
2/ Orla and Neta Reva’i: The prohibition against consumption of the first three years of produce of a fruit tree and the obligation to bring the fourth year’s fruit to Jerusalem for consumption.
3/ Edicts prohibiting sorcery and superstitious beliefs.
4/ Edicts prohibiting men from totally cutting their sideburns [indicating one’s payos] and shaving with a razor.
[MB note: Sefer Vayikra. Perek 19, posuk 27 as rendered to English in “The Sapirstein Edition: The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary” : “You shall not round off the edge of your scalp and you shall not destroy the edge of your beard.”]

Parshat Kedoshim [also lists] a series of warnings against immoral acts and… punishments for forbidden relationships first outlined at the end of Parshat Acharei Mot.

Among the laws Torah lists in our Parsha are these:

“You shall rise in the presence of an old person and you shall honor the presence of an elder and you shall have fear of your G’d — I am Hashem.” (Sefer Vayikra. Perek 19, posuk 32 as rendered to English in “The Sapirstein Edition: The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary)

“When a proselyte [a convert to Judaism, a Ger Tzeddek] dwells among you in your land, do not harass him. The proselyte who dwells with you shall be like a native among you, and you shall love him like yourself, for you have been aliens in the land of Mitzrayim [Egypt] — I am Hashem.” Sefer Vayikra. Perek 19, posuk 34 as rendered to English in “The Sapirstein Edition: The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary)

Torah then elaborates on the Asseret HaDivrot, the Ten Commandments in depth.

Rabbi Goldin brings out questions and some understandings concerning the mode of transmission regarding Parshat Kedoshim vs the normal transmission of Torah (Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Vayikra, pages 144-148):

The Rabbinic claim concerning the transmission of Parshat Kedoshim seems counterintuitive.

If… the hierarchical method of Torah transmission is the most effective, this method should have been employed in communication of Parshat Kedoshim, one of the most important sections of Torah law.

If, on the other hand, full assembly is the most effective form of Torah transmission, why was this method not employed in the communication of the entire Torah?

By commanding Moshe to assemble the entire nation together for the transmission of one particular section of the law, Hashem automatically alerts Am Yisrael to the significance of that section. I am changing the way things are done, He effectively says, because, this time, something is different.

The usual method of Torah transmission, as efficient as it may be, is suspended this one time so that people will never forget the Parsha from which “most of the fundamental teachings of the Torah are derived.”

Numerous scholars, however, are not content to leave matters at that level.

Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi… maintains that Hashem gathers the nation in full assembly in order to minimize potential misunderstanding and dispute concerning this pivotal section of… law…. By insisting that all of Am Yisrael hear these pivotal edicts together, Hashem insures uniformity in the transmission of the law and greatly minimizes the possibility of variation. (Rabbi Goldin citing Mizrachi on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 2: “‘Speak to the entire assembly of B’nei Yisrael “)

Rabbi Aharon Ibn Chaim, a medieval commentary on the Midrash, says Torah edicts are generally designed to be understood on different levels by different people, each according to his ability and training…. The concrete regulations of Parshat Kedoshim, however, are unique. Meant to be understood equally by all, they were transmitted to the entire nation on the same level, at once. (Rabbi Goldin citing Korban Aharon, on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 2)

The eighteenth-century Chassidic scholar Rabbi Kalonymous Kalman Halevi Epstein perceives within the requirement for full assembly a reflection of the critical concept of communal affiliation…. True sanctity can only be achieved through re-connection with a Torah community, through shared experience with others who are also seeking to serve Hashem.

[In] Parshat Kedoshim, Hashem reminds each individual within the nation that his personal search for sanctity will ultimately require full participation with those around him. (Rabbi Goldin citing Maor Va’shemesh on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 2)

Perhaps, however, the boldest suggestion concerning the transmission of Parshat Kedoshim is introduced by the sixteenth-century scholar Rabbi Moshe Alshich. The Alshich maintains that this Parsha is taught in full assembly in order to convey to all those present their equal ability to achieve a life of holiness… (Rabbi Goldin citing Torat Moshe on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 2)

Hashem Commands Moshe… to set aside the divisions that normally characterize his teaching of Torah text. This time, the nation will stand together as equals, when they hear the command “Kedoshim tihiyu,” “Holy shall you be…” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 2)

Rabbi Goldin concludes (Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Vayikra, page 148):

At the moment of transmission of Parshat Kedoshim, Hashem commands Moshe to eschew [to abstain or keep away from; shun; avoid] the communal hierarchy and to gather the nation in ‘full assembly’: As they hear the commandment “Holy shall you be…,” let the cobbler stand shoulder to shoulder with the Kohen Godol; let the blacksmith stand with the elders; let the unlearned stand with the scholar; that they may know that the search for holiness knows no favorites, that a relationship with their Creator is equally open to all.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; all due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he is now in his second year at home in Eretz Yisrael. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.