Kedoshim is a sidra dense with instructions about how to bring holiness into our lives –to bring ourselves closer to the Divine. These mitzvot are also, dare I say, designed to create an envelope of trust, for what could be closer to holiness than trust?
I will look at three of these precepts that I believe have particular application to those of us who have chosen this pathway of becoming rabbis.
Verse 14: Do not place a stumbling block before the blind – mentioned 12 times in Tanach – Midrash teaches this is not about an actual material block, but improper advice given to someone.
Verse 26: You shall not indulge in sorcery and you shall not believe in lucky times, ie, don’t buy lottery tickets.
Verse 36: We must be accurate with our weights and measures – you shall not gossip and stand by whilst your fellow’s blood is shed.
How would a mitzvah commanding us to be accurate about our weights and measures apply to us? And is there a direct route from cheating to shedding of blood? Again, while we would encourage our Jewish shopkeepers, if not our investment managers to abide by this mitzvah, I suggest this mitzvah is very much of concern to each of us. How carefully we must weigh the words that leave our lips, lest, Sefai tai teiftach, the banks of our mouths be tempted to overflow and flood, causing great damage. We must learn to keep shtum. We must indeed measure our speech, and not be found wanting in discretion. And we will make mistakes. I apologize in advance if I have hurt you with an offhand or unthinking remark.
Not believing in sorcery is one thing, (I don’t believe there is a pagan in our midst), but the phrase “you shall not believe in lucky times” caught my eye on this reading. Pharrell sang – “Be happy” and perhaps his is an updated version of this mitzvah. What are those “lucky” times but times that are not now – a caution from God to live in this moment, be happy in each treasured moment. Perhaps also a caution to not set too much store in the afterlife, when, supposedly, all will be perfection. Accept the muddle of this moment. In following the mitzvot, we are in the flow of the river, the process of choosing each day to become our best selves.
And those stumbling blocks, those paving blocks of good intentions are everywhere. And can literally trip us up. We will be called upon to listen to the tsuris of people’s lives, we will be consulted and we will be listened to – what a recipe for chametz of the soul. Perhaps these are also precepts for God – imagine being God and holding all of the perfection that we ascribe to God? And yet, as we read through Tanach we know God too, has moments of jealousy and rage, impatience and frustration. Perhaps these mitzvot came from God’s own Self-learning. And while pride, hubris, can become our downfall, so too can a lack of confidence. People will turn to us. We will be trusted, and we must find internal strength even as we may be unsure of that strength.
Hence, the essential need for prayer, self-reflection, and yes, even Yoga. We each must make time every day to speak with God, to listen very carefully and to ensure our own egos are not leading us by the nose. And we must learn to be utterly and always discrete. No gossiping about what has been shared with us, for truly our words can murder and shed blood. That blood may be a rising of dom, of blood to the surface of the person’s face – but humiliation has a very long memory. What an importantsidra for us. One to be needle-pointed and posted to our walls – Luther posted his 95 theses. Our theses are found in Kedoshim.