The two Perashot that we read this week, highlight some of the commandments which have helped to define the Jewish people and have contributed to the general moral and ethical fiber of the entire civilized world. We are enjoined to become Kedoshim – Holy, by acting in a proper fashion and by avoiding certain behavior. The famous statements “Love thy neighbor as yourself”, “Revere your mother and your father”, and “You shall not lie to one another” to name a few, are the hallmark of holiness – Kedusha, proper civilized behavior
Maimonides explains that the concept of holiness is not limited to the observance of any particular commandment rather; that one’s approach to all the commandments and aspects of life be governed by moderation of one’s desires and consideration of other people’s needs and feelings. He continues to say that someone who observes only the letter of the law can easily become a נבל ברשות התורה – a degenerate with the permission of the torah, for such a person can observe the technicalities of the commandments while surrendering to self-indulgence, gluttony and licentiousness. G-d demands more than the obedience to the letter of the law, He demands obedience to the spirit of the law.
These are the precepts that modern day society either ignores or takes for granted. These laws and modes of behavior, that may appear so obvious to our civilization and era, they were an innovation 3400 years ago, principles, that were unheard of. Yet, even on our era, they are violated, ignored, bypassed and even belittled. Their origin however is divine, and human kind still struggles today to maintain this ideal. It is important to be cognizant of those ideals, live by them so that we make a more conscious effort to uphold them.
These principles, bring peace between individuals as in between nations and people. They bring understanding between generations and civilizations. If only they are followed and respected, the world would have lived in harmony for a long time.
Rabbi Elie Abadie, M.D.