Torah Reading — 6 Iyar 577 — 11 May 2019

Categories: Weekly Torah Reading

Kedoshim: Leviticus 17:1 – 20:27

פרשת קדשים

Concealing the commandments

The problem of how to begin a speech is hinted at in the Midrash on the K’doshim reading, when it informs us (Lev. 19:1-2) that the entire people of Israel is being addressed, every group, every section, every tribe.

And why? Rabbi Chiyya explained that this reading lists all the basic principles of Judaism.

Rabbi Levi said it included the Ten Commandments.

You might not find the Decalogue if you look for the conventional wording, but you will find, “I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19:3), “Do not make molten gods for yourselves” (verse 4), “Do not swear falsely by My Name” (verse 12), “Keep My Sabbaths” (verse 3), “Everyone shall revere their mother and father” (verse 3), “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbour” (verse 16), “An adulterer and adulteress shall be put to death” (verse 10), “Do not steal” (verse 11), “Do not go up and down as a talebearer” (verse 16), “Love your neighbour as yourself” (verse 18).

A concealed set of the Ten Commandments!


The whole congregation

Normally a Torah commandment begins, “Speak to the Children of Israel”.

Today’s sidra, Kedoshim, says more. It opens, “Speak to all the congregation of the Children of Israel and tell them to be holy people” (Num. 19:2).

Addressing “all the congregation” teaches us an important lesson, that holiness does not come from being a hermit-like individual but by working in and with society.

There is a Yiddish phrase about being a tzaddik in a fur coat, which is a warning against being warm for and by yourself without bringing warmth to other people too.


Honouring your mother

 

The Ten Commandments tell us, “Honour your father and mother”. Parashat Kedoshim puts the parents in the reverse order, “Revere your mother and father”.

According to the sages followed by Rashi (Kiddushin 30b/31a), revering is more usual towards a father, so the Torah wants us to know that mothers must also be revered and not expected to allow their children everything.

These days it’s much harder to be a mother or father, since the fashion is to call parents by their first name and treat them like one’s contemporaries.

It reminds me of my aunt, who protested against my over-familiar mode of address and said, “I’m not one of your mates in the playground, you know!”

This is not to say that children should go to the other extreme and bow and scrape before Dad the Dictator, but children should remember that they owe so much to their parents, and listening to the parental voice of experience is actually quite helpful.

Another memory: when my father wanted to talk about his life, we got impatient: “Dad and his stories again!” Now I’m sorry, because I’d know more about myself if I knew more about Dad.


 

Shabbat Shalom

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