This week, we read the double parshah Achrei-Mot/Kedoshim from Sefer Vayikra (Leviticus). These two parshayot teach that when we make good and positive choices, we distinguish ourselves, and this allows us to become unique and “holy.” In this parshah, God states to Bnai Israel: “You shall become Kedoshim, because I am Kadosh.” The word “Kadosh” is often translated as “holy”; however, traditional commentators suggest that a better translation is “special” or “unique.” We are challenged to become “special and unique” because we are created in the image of God, who is “special and unique.”
The text of Parshat Kedoshim describes how we become special and unique. It is not by virtue of any birthright or natural inheritance. Rather, we “become unique” through observance of mitzvot related primarily to social justice: dedicating a portion of our crops (wealth) to the poor; ensuring labourers are paid fairly, matching challenges to peoples’ abilities and needs; not standing idly by when someone is in need. The parshah includes the famous dictum: “love your neighbour as yourself.” Parshat Kedoshim suggests that we become closest to God – most ‘Kadosh‘ – through how we treat other people. We develop our relationship with God – beyn adam lemakom – through mitzvot oriented to other people – beyn adam lechavero.
This Shabbat, may we all consider the small ways that our own positive choices help us maintain and grow a sense of uniqueness.