LEVITICUS – VAYIKRA
Kedoshim – Holy
Kedoshim, at the mid-point of the book of Vayikra/Leviticus, also is the mid-point of the five books of Moses. As the fulcrum on which the Torah balances, one would expect it to highlight the heart of this precious foundation of the Word of God; and indeed it does. This is considered one of the richest and most exalted portions in the Hebrew Scriptures.
It begins with the words: Kedoshim te’hiyu – “You shall be holy!” The pronoun here is plural, indicating that it is the people of Israel who shall be holy. The command to be holy is repeated three more times in this parasha (20:7, 8, 26), indicating God’s intent that this message be very clear. Chapters 19 and 20 list deeds that are considered outward reflections of holiness. The commandments, however, are not merely things to do in order to “be holy.” Ideally, one’s obedience to them will be outward reflections of a loving relationship with the Giver of the commandments; a relationship initiated by God Himself, who, in a gift of His love, has called us and longs constantly to draw us closer to Himself.
Emor – Say
Emor, say, to My people: They shall be holy to their G-d and not profane the Name of their G-d… (Lev. 21:6). Those who serve G-d as a “kingdom of priests” are obligated to act in a way that honors and sanctifies His Name. This is called in Hebrew kiddush haShem (sanctification of the Name), the obverse of which is chillul haShem (desecration of the Name). The book of Leviticus, initially called Torat Kohanim, Instructions/guidance for Priests, outlines that behavior. Included in this portion is the commandment to count seven full weeks from Pesach/Passover to Shavuot/Pentecost (23:15). It relates to the ancient wedding ceremony when, after the bridal agreement was reached, a bridegroom presented his bride with a ketubah, marriage contract to seal the betrothal. Likewise, Shavuot is the completion of the Exodus at Passover. As a sign of the covenant of love between God and His people, the betrothal is sealed.
Behar – On Mount Sinai
The fiftieth day, a day of yovel, or jubilee, was the day be’har, when the mountain trembled at the sound of the shofar (ram’s horn or trumpet) of the Lord and fire flashed forth and a cloud of glory covered the Mount. G-d spoke and revealed Himself to His people and presented them with His Word, the Torah. It was the awesome day of uniting in Covenant relationship.
The parasha contains the visionary concepts of the Shmitah year, every seven years, and the Yovel -Jubilee year every fifty years. Both are connected with the land of Israel itself. During the Shmitah year no work is to be done on the land, it too has a Shabbat and rests. On the Jubilee year any land sold by a farmer in order to pay his debts is returned to him. This ensures that the family are not condemned to permanent impoverishment.
Two spiritual principles are made evident in these commands from God:
- All the earth, in a general sense, but specifically the Land of Israel, belongs to God. Individuals do not have the right to permanently possess either land or people.
- No human being should be condemned to permanent servitude or slavery. A way should always be available whereby he can be reinstated to a position of dignity.
Bechukotai – In My Statutes
In the opening verse of Bechukotai a remarkable connection is made between the laws of nature and the Law, or Torah, of G-d. It indicates that the productivity of the earth depends upon whether G-d’s Word is being studied and walked out in obedience in the lives of His people. Yeshua came to embody this Word, the Torah, of the Father and those who ‘walk’ after him are enabled by the Spirit of G-d to walk in paths of righteousness and peace. The promise in Ezekiel 36:27 echoes the opening words of this parasha: “I will put My Spirit within you and cause [enable] you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
This marks the conclusion of the book of Leviticus / Vayikra.
Chazak, chazak ve’nitchazek!
Be strong, be strong, and may we continue to strengthen one another in our study and understanding of His Holy Word.
Based on A Taste of Torah available via FFOZ.org