Parashat Kedoshim: “Holy Love” - Vital Transformation

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Parashat Kedoshim: “Holy Love”

Weekly Pearl of Wisdom for Your Shabbat Table

Parashat Kedoshim: “Holy Love”

This week we read from Parashat Kedoshim. Its literal translation is “holy ones” signifying how Kedoshim guides us to be holy through laws of sanctity and ethical behavior. We have also begun the wise month of Iyar, of Taurus.

Where to love?

Parashat Kedoshim seeks to shape us to be “holy”, generous, and loving. There is a large focus on “loving your neighbor as yourself”, meaning improving our relationship between us and others. We learn that the other main relationship is between us and the Creator. We can ask, “Why do we start with loving others instead of loving God?” We begin understanding this by comparing the two relationships: relationships with others have more development and feedback. With other people, we can have endless development and growth. With the Creator, while we can grow in connection, we cannot add that much. One cannot add a second Shabbat on Wednesday. The terms of our relationship with the Creator are set in the stone tablets from Mount Sinai. But, from other people, we can receive live, active feedback on the state of our relationship and where we can improve. With God, we seemingly have no live feedback telling us how we are doing. The amount of growth available is not the same in these two relationships. This is not, God forbid, to say one is better than the other. Rather, we highlight that relationships with others hold great importance and are therefore the focus of our Parasha.

How responsible am I?

Our Parashah continues that “loving your neighbor as yourself” means that we must take care of our family and our workers. The Torah forbids us to hold back pay from our workers and demands we treat them the very best we can. The Zohar teaches that if one holds back pay from their employees, their life will be cut short and they will be judged in Heaven. All the complaints against you will be brought directly up to the heavenly courts. It continues that employees must be paid before Shabbat. We must show love and respect to our employees by making sure they have all they need for their families, Shabbat meals, and more. Employees are listed right after family in the Torah to teach us that our Jewish brothers and sisters are family and must be taken care of. It’s notable to add that it is not about the money; even if our employee is a billionaire and doesn’t need the money, it is our responsibility to take care of them. When others work for you, they are giving their body to you, so now you are responsible for taking care of them and their needs. It’s about commitment to our greater family, love for our neighbor, and striving to be “holy ones”.

Can I be holy like God?

Kedoshim teaches us that God commands “You shall be holy because I’m holy”. Rav Ashlag questions, “What does holiness mean and how can His holiness be connected to ours?” According to Rashi, being “holy” means keeping away from forbidden sexual relations and evil thoughts. When the evil inclination with its evil thoughts comes in tempting us to have forbidden relations and thoughts, we are to think “How can I overcome it?” We are to attack it.

Kabbalah teaches that we are a part of God. That our soul is directly from Him. Like a stone from a mountain, we are of Him. When we understand this, we begin to be motivated: We can overcome evil because we come from Him! Our soul therefore is perfect and will not give up. Since our root is God and He is holy, we can reach holiness like Him. We can tap into our soul’s infinite capacity and overcome. The key is always remembering our root, the Godly soul. To help us never forget, God gave us the tools of the Torah and Mitzvot. He gave us an eternal connection back to our source from this world.

What if I hate you?

The Parasha teaches us, “Do not hate your brother in your heart”. What does this mean? If we have resentment towards someone, do not bottle it up. We are being commanded to confront our feelings for a person we hate. They must know we are hurt by them; one cannot assume they know they caused him hurt. Give them the benefit of the doubt by telling them how they hurt you. It is critical to tell them how you feel while remaining open to discussion. Be open to hearing an explanation for why they did what they did. Be open to them changing their future actions to ensure you are not hurt again. Allow others to stop and change their hurtful ways. The Torah uses the word “brother” to uniquely teach us that we should be open to fixing the hatred, getting close to those we hate, and one day reaching a place where we feel as close as brothers! By being open to changing the hate, we truly practice “love your neighbor as yourself” and become “holy ones”.

Rosh Chodesh Iyar

Each month brings energy based on the unique combination of God’s (יקוק) name. The combination for the month of Iyar is יקקו. Kabbalah teaches that when the two ק’s are close to each other, it is a sign of a month of mercy and goodness. The Arizal teaches that this exact combination of יקקו is indicative of the light of wisdom; the raw, endless energy. The light of wisdom, we learn, is the most powerful light, too powerful to contain. By way of analogy, just as lightning is too strong to harness, so too is this light of wisdom. Certainly a strong month! We further learn that the vav, ו, from the יקקו, was endowed with the personality of a thinker.

What is all this coming to teach us? We learn here that Iyar is a powerful month for wisdom, a month to think deeply, and a month for making decisions. We can tap into the energy of this month to think and get wisdom. In short, this is a great month for thinking!


Tauruses can be very materialistic people, but do not judge them! They can use their materialistic side to have more to share with others. There is so much goodness in this month. Make sure you do not become stingy with your goodness. We have the wonderful opportunity to go about this month thinking like we have it all and all that is left to be done is to share it with others.

May we use this month of Iyar to learn to share with others, to love our neighbor like ourselves, and to be “holy ones”.

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov!

-Rabbi Eliyahu Jian

Eliyahu Jian May 22, 2024

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