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   by Jacob Solomon

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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON THE TEXT AND COMMENTARIES ON PARASHAT KEDOSHIM 5765


What is the meaning of the following, according to the commentaries stated?

(a) 'You shall be holy' (19:2), according to Rashi, and the S'forno.

(b) 'You shall revere your mother and father' (19:3), according to the Ramban.

(c) 'You must not put a stumbling block before the blind' (19:14), according to Rashi.

(d) 'You shall not commit a perversion of justice' (19:15), according to the Ohr Hachayim.

(e) 'You should judge your fellow man with righteousness' (19:15) according to Hirsch.

(f) 'You shall not stand on your fellow's blood' (19:16), according to Rashi.

(g) 'You shall not take revenge, and you shall not bear a grudge' (19:18), according to Rashi.

(h) 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself', (19:18) according to the Ramban.

(i) 'You shall not place a tattoo upon yourself' (19:28), according to Rashi.

(j) 'You shall stand up in the presence of an old personů I am G-d' (19:32), according to Rashi.

(k) 'You shall sanctify yourself and you will be holy' (20:7), according to the Meshech Chochma.

(l) 'I have separated you from [other] peoples to be Mine' (20:26), according to Rashi.

ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT AND COMMENTARIES ON PARASHAT KEDOSHIM.

(a) 'You shall be holy', according to Rashi, means that one should be 'separate'. The Israelites are enjoined to separate themselves as a G-d's servants by avoiding sexual relationships forbidden by the Torah. The S'forno stresses that Mitzvot in general must be carried out in a fitting way - not by doing just the minimum, but though performing His Commandments in a spiritually elevated manner. For example honoring parents is not fulfilled by personal service, but it should be done with appropriate respect.

(b) 'You shall revere your mother and father', according to the Ramban, means that one is required to show the same respect to a parent as one would to a sovereign with the absolute power to punish.

(c) 'You must not put a stumbling block before the blind', according to Rashi, means that a person should not knowingly give an innocent party bad advice against his own interests.

(d) 'You shall not commit a perversion of justice', according to the Ohr Hachayim is not directed at the judge, but to litigants who knowingly lie in court and cause a miscarriage of justice.

(e) Hirsch understands that 'You should judge your fellow man with righteousness', refers to the importance of showing understanding towards other people. A person may have been found guilty by a judge, but there could have been extraneous circumstances which even though legally would still convict him, would morally still keep him as a 'decent person'. So this commandment tells people that they should take care not to condemn. That someone acted wrongly and was made liable does not necessarily render him a 'bad person' and worthy of rejection by other people.

(f) 'You shall not stand on your fellow's blood', according to Rashi, means that 'you should not stand aside whilst your fellow's blood is being shed'. A person transgresses that prohibition if he is able to help another person in distress and refuses to become involved.

(g) 'You shall not take revenge, and you shall not bear a grudge', according to Rashi, shows two forbidden means of 'getting even' with someone else. If Reuven asks Shimon for a loan which he can grant, and Shimon refuses outright, recalling Reuven's previous failure to help him out, he is taking revenge. If Shimon does grant the loan, but in the process recalls Reuven's recent meanness towards him, he has borne a grudge. Both are forbidden by the Torah.

(h) 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself', according to the Ramban, acknowledges that most people cannot feel the same love for others as they feel for themselves. Rather, it means that they should wish that other people should enjoy the same high degrees of success, achievement, and prosperity as they would wish for themselves.

(i) The commandment of: 'You shall not place a tattoo upon yourself', according to Rashi, is only violated if the tattoo marks are permanent (not, for example, where a person writes a telephone number on the palm of his hand).

(j) 'You shall stand up in the presence of an old personů I am G-d', according to Rashi is a warning against human nature. Applied to today, a person might be tempted not to offer his seat on the bus to someone older having to stand up, by acting as if he has not noticed that older person. The Torah therefore says 'You shall fearů G-d' - He knows our true intentions.

(k) 'You shall sanctify yourself and you will be holy', according to the Meshech Chochma, is a guarantee from G-d. If a person makes a sincere effort to observe the Mitzvot ('You shall sanctify yourself'), then 'you will indeed be holy': G-d will assist in purifying not only the person's actions, but his or her thoughts as well.

(l) 'I have separated you from [other] peoples to be Mine', according to Rashi, means the following. A person should not say, for example, that the reason he does not eat pork is because he does not like the taste of it. But rather, that he would like to savor pork, but 'what can I do - G-d decreed that it is forbidden!' That type of 'decree' is the mechanism by which G-d distinguishes the Israelites as being His People.

ADDITIONAL QUESTION ON PARASHAT KEDOSHIM

The actual meaning of, "You shall be holy", (19:2) is disputed between the commentators. The Midrash (Lev. Rabbah 24:6), followed by Rashi, states that this commands the avoiding of the illicit physical relationships described in the previous chapter. Holiness is a product of refraining from sexual immorality.

The problem with this explanation is as follows. On the three occasions in this Parasha where one is commanded to be holy (supra, 20:7, and 20:26), it is in the actual context of observing G-d's laws and the prohibition of idol worship. The commandment of 'being holy' does not actually occur in the actual context of sexual relationships. Why therefore, does Rashi nevertheless make the link between 'You shall be holy', and forbidden sexual relationships?

Other Parashiot from previous years may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/index.htm

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: jacobsol@netvision.net.il for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Also by Jacob Solomon:
Between the Fish and the Soup

From the Prophets on the Haftara

e-mail: jacobsol@netvision.net.il

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