During his presentation last night, Rabbi Bill Leffler presented ideas from his book,
The Structure of Religion. Among the aspects of Jewish life that he emphasized was the centrality of making moments and life holy through our behavior. The Torah portion for this week, KEDOSHIM, begins with the declaration: “You shall be holy, for I , your Eternal God, am holy.” Leviticus Chapter 19 continues with a list of ways/behaviors which can lead us to holiness. We read this portion from the Torah on Yom Kippur afternoon to remind us how we can infuse the coming year with the sanctity we sense on the High Holy Days.
I once asked Temple leaders to put some of the verses of Leviticus Chapter 19 into modern terms, with suggestions for actions (doing mitzvot) that we are attainable and relevant today. Here is their list, and you can arrive at your own interpretations as well (feel free to email me with your ideas!).
Revere your mother and father: Be patient....be respectful of seasoned leadership.
Keep my Sabbaths: attend services....rest and study at home or anywhere.
Leave the corners of your fields for the poor and the stranger: Give tzedakah, give donations to local food pantries, support agencies that provide shelter, assistance and hot meals for people in need.
You must not steal: don't take credit for someone else's ideas.
You must not act deceitfully nor lie to one another: Don't go back on your word....Be honest.
Do not oppress your neighbor: Respect differences between people.
The wages of a laborer should not remain with you overnight until morning: Pay bills and employees on time.
Do not curse the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind: make all programs and homes/buildings accessible as much as possible.
Judge your neighbor justly: make fair decisions.
Do not slander others: Don't gossip.
Do not seek vengeance: Don't try to get even with anyone.
Do not bear a grudge: Forgive (but not necessarily forget).
Love your neighbor as yourself: Be considerate....don't do to someone else what is hateful to you.
Treat strangers like citizens: Welcome newcomers to your community.
This “holiness code” is still very much a part of who we are as individuals and as a people/community. Let us continue to strive to make our lives and our actions sacred in the days to come.
Rabbi Larry K.