Torah Fax

Friday, April 30, 2004 - 9 Iyar, 5764

Torah Reading: Acharei-Kedoshim (Leviticus 16:1 - 20:27)
Candle Lighting Time: 7:33 PM
Shabbat Ends: 8:38 PM

Holiness Vs. Asceticism

This week's Parshah is a double Parshah, Acharei-Kedoshim. Kedoshim, which literally translates as "Be holy," is an eclectic one. It covers virtually every area of Jewish law and its application in every aspect of life. The laws governing agriculture, the prohibition of mixing linen and wool, the laws of Sabbath observance and the laws regarding gossip are only a few of the dozens of laws which make up the bulk of our Parshah.

Holiness in Judaism is not defined by the degree to which one divorces himself from the pleasures of life, but is it defined by the measure to which one introduces G‑dliness into every aspect of one's existence. Whether it is respecting a parent, because our parents are G‑d's partners in bringing our lives into being, or whether we make sure not to stand idly by while our fellow suffers because we recognize that each human is created in G‑d's image - when we act holy, we act out of an awareness of G‑d's presence in every detail of our lives.

Perhaps this is why our sages tell us that this Parshah in particular was taught (in the desert) to the entire Jewish people collectively. Since this Parshah is so fundamental and all encompassing, everyone needed to be gathered together to hear it taught from Moses' mouth directly.

The Midrash also emphasizes the uniqueness of this Parshah in that all of the Ten Commandments are represented in it. Shabbat is mentioned, the need to avoid idolatry, honoring one's parents, etc. The only commandment not explicitly stated is the 10th one, the prohibition against coveting. But, commentators note, since our Parshah gives us the all-inclusive commandment to "love our fellow Jew as ourselves," the prohibition against coveting is included - since one who loves his friend will certainly not covet his belongings.

But that being the case, one may ask why there is a need for our Parshah to explicitly repeat the prohibition against stealing. Once the Torah tells us to love our fellow, one automatically knows not to steal his property. For that matter, the commandment to avoid murder need not be repeated in this week's Parshah either. Why is only the Mitzvah prohibiting coveting not mentioned?

There is a qualitative difference between the Mitzvah not to covet and the mitzvahs about murder and stealing. Murder and stealing cause obvious harm to the victim, coveting does not necessarily harm anyone. True, if one really desired one of his friend's belongings he might pressure him into selling it or even giving it to him, but this is not an act done against the owner's will. The owner suffered no monetary loss and even agreed to the sale.

Thus, while theft and murder are clearly a repudiation of the commandment to love our fellow, these commandments also possess an independent nature. Even if one doesn't possess an open love for his fellow, he can still recognize the evil of stealing and certainly murdering. Therefore, these commandments are mentioned separately in our Parshah, in addition to the Mitzvah of loving your fellow.

By contrast, the Mitzvah no to covet is singularly derived from the principle of love. If not for the fact that we must love one another, one could theoretically imagine that coveting in and of itself is not a vice since no harm comes to anyone through coveting. However, once the Torah say that one must love his fellow as himself, it becomes clear that coveting is forbidden as well.

Perhaps this can also answer a famous question posed by our rabbis: if the Mitzvah of loving your fellow Jew is so fundamental, why was it not incorporated into the Ten Commandments? In light of the above, we can say that indeed, the 10th Commandment prohibiting coveting is in fact predicated on the imperative to love your fellow.

May our pursuit of the Mitzvah of loving our fellow create an atmosphere in which we can be receptive of G‑d's blessings - including the ultimate blessing of Moshiach. Moshiach will usher in an age when we will all truly be Kedoshim - holy.          
Moshiach Matters

One of the most important traditions regarding the Messianic Age concerns the ingathering of the Diaspora and the resettlement of the Land of Israel.There are numerous traditions that Jews will begin to return to the Land of Israel as a prelude to the Messiah.
(From The Real Messiah, by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan)

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