The Bible Says What? ‘There’s a hole in The Holiness Code!’

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The Bible Says What? ‘There’s a hole in The Holiness Code!’

Rabbi Yuval Keren takes a controversial topic and looks at a progressive response

Leviticus contains a section we often refer to as The Holiness Code. It provides us with a legal, ethical and ritual code of conduct beginning with the words: “God spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy (kedoshim), for I, Adonai, your God, am Holy (kadosh).”

The Hebrew word kadosh is translated as ‘holy’, but it also means ‘distinct’, ‘separate’ and ‘elevated’.

This opening verse of The Holiness Code tells us God is unique, separate and elevated from the world and God’s holiness is a constant presence in the world. All holiness stems from God and everything in creation can assume this holiness of God.

Holiness is therefore a conditional state. Nothing can be given the status of holiness unless there is a holy action behind it. The land of Israel is holy if its inhabitants can find the courage to respect and care for one another. Sabbaths and festivals will be holy if we observe them, celebrate them and actively rest in them.

However, there is one great danger in doing just that. Our interpretation of these laws might become faulty if we forget about the rest of the world and think of these rules as applying to a select group of people.

We might decide we should not care for the poor of another city, country or continent because we are too busy caring for the poor in our own city.

Therefore when we explore our tradition of ethics, we must apply the test of common sense and reason and not accept the sacred text of Torah as perfect, infallible and relevant for all times and in all situations.

By applying both tradition and reason, we can bring ourselves nearer to the presence of God.

Rabbi Yuval Keren serves Southgate Progressive Synagogue

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