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Parsha Ponderings- Acharei-Kedoshim



איש אביו ואמו תיראו ואת שבתותי תשמורו, אני דאלקיכם:

אל תפנו אל האלילים, ואלקי מסכה לא תעשו לכם אני דאלקיכם:

Each man, his father and mother, he shall revere, and my Sabbath you shall observe, I am God, your Lord. Do not turn to the idols, and do not craft for yourselves molten gods, I am God, your Lord.

Parshas Kedoshim, as Rashi immediately notes, is in many ways a synopsis of the entire Torah. Indeed, we find that Moshe took the unique step of calling together the entire nation to deliver this Parsha, in a mass assemblage reminiscent of the Revelation at Sinai itself. Building upon this similarity, Ramban goes on to illustrate how much of Kedoshim actually runs parallel to the Ten Commandments, expounding upon the very ideals presented at Sinai in more detailed fashion.

While some of the restated Commandments are buried deep within our Parsha, rendering them more difficult to discern, three are contained within the very first couple of verses:

Honoring parents- “Each man, his father and mother, he shall revere”.

Shabbos observance- and my Sabbath you shall observe

Prohibition against idolatry- Do not turn to the idols, and do not craft for yourselves molten gods.

Yet even this self-evident reiteration of Commandments bears closer scrutiny. If we pay attention to the sequence of the aforementioned verses, we will notice that they are arranged in precisely the reverse order in which they appear in the Ten Commandments. Whereas at Sinai we were first warned against idol worship, then told about Shabbos, and only afterwards commanded to respect our parents, Kedoshim does an exact about-face. The million-dollar question: Why?

Rav Yitzchok d’Aramah, the brilliant Torah philosopher better known by the title of his classic work, Akeidas Yitzchok, resolves this difficulty by identifying a fundamental difference between the respective messages of Sinai and Kedoshim.

At Sinai, explains Akeidas Yitzchok, the Jewish Nation was being initiated into the service of God. As such, the first order of business was securing their exclusive and unequivocal subservience to God; hence, the first Commandment to believe in God and renounce idolatry. Next, came the proverbial donning of uniforms unique to God’s army; namely, the heeding of the uniquely Jewish Shabbos. Finally, the more obvious and universal standards of ethical human conduct, such as the imperative of honoring parents, had to be re-invoked, so as to be henceforth incorporated into not only human, but Jewish, protocol.

The assemblage of Kedoshim, on the other hand, took on an entirely different tone. The Israelites, having already been inducted into God’s military, were now being encouraged to take their spirituality to new heights.

As Kedoshim begins: “Be holy, for I am holy”.

Or, in other words: Go beyond the call of duty.

Take on practices not because the letter of the law obligates you to do so, but because you seek to become a better, more virtuous person, in the spirit of your imponderably virtuous Maker.

Herein, explains Akeidas Yitzchok lies the reason for the reversal in order.

Obedience entails knowing your master and obeying his laws regardless of their appeal to your intellect, as the first order of business. True and lasting spiritual greatness, on the other hand, cannot be achieved through acts devoid of emotional and intellectual involvement. Instead, one must learn to appreciate the inherent value of virtuous acts, to the point where he craves the positive act on its own merit. The place to start, therefore, is precisely with those positive activities dictated by logic and self-vindicating to the intellect, such as honoring one’s parents. With little effort, one can develop an appreciation for such commandments, to the point where even his more human tendencies, see it fit to broaden the scope of their fulfillment. Next, he must advance towards the less understood but yet somewhat sensual commandments, such as Shabbos. Yes, he may not understand why God created Shabbos, but he can surely develop an appreciation for a day of rest and an appetite for a good Shabbos meal. Only then can he contemplate the more difficult task of developing a tangible taste for an intangible God, and a revulsion toward the alternative entities which play god over humanity in far more tangible fashion.

The road to greatness, is not paved with martyrdom; it is paved with taste buds which have developed an appreciation for truly great things.

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