Parashat Achrei Mot (After the death) &
Kedoshim (Holy ones)
Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:1-18:40 & 19:1-20:27
Haftarah: Amos 9:7-15 (Ashkenazi Jews) & Ezekiel 22:1-16 (Sephardi Jews)
I previously wrote similar thoughts about this week’s reading, but because I believe it is such an essential part of who God is and what He requires of us, I wanted to expand on what I wrote before. Parashat Kedoshim opens with two important verses (Leviticus 19:1-2):
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy'.”
Verse one begins with the word “and” which means that something precedes it; it is a continuation of something. If we look at the other Parasha for this week, "Achrei Mot", we can gain a better understanding of what God is communicating to us in these verses:
"Thus you are to keep (observe) My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the LORD your God."
God commanded the entire congregation of Israel to be holy. Why? Simply, because God is holy. By extension, today, we followers of the living God — Jew and Gentile, alike — are also commanded to be holy. Each one of us is presented with a daily choice: choose God or the world. We cannot serve both — we either choose God and His ways, or the world and its ways.
What does it mean to be holy? In Hebrew, the command of holiness to the children of Israel in these passages is “קְדֹשִׁים” (kedoshim), which parallels the Hebrew word used for God's holiness, which is “קָדוֹשׁ” (kadosh). It can mean "lofty and exalted, righteous, holy and exalted in his ethics, to stick to the ways of the LORD, saint, sanctified and sacred."
In Leviticus 19:3–37 we find a detailed list (which I highly recommend you read) of the various areas in which God instructs us how to live holy lives. He instructs us in the way we are to treat our parents and one another, as well as a reminder of the importance of the Sabbath day, the institution of marriage, family, agriculture, and other areas of our lives.
When one reads the various areas mentioned here, one can see that God desires holiness in every aspect of our lives. This explains the reason that in Leviticus 20:26, God repeats this instruction with a small, yet very important, addition:
Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.
To be holy essentially means "to be set apart". That brings me to a very interesting verse which is found in Amos 9:7a:
"Are you not as the sons of Cushites to Me, You sons of Israel?” declares the LORD. “Have I not brought up Israel from the land of Egypt,”
Various commentaries say that the text that mentions the “sons of Cushites” refers to different tribes in what is today Ethiopia and Sudan, which were considered as slaves. In reference to the text, we can see once again that God brought Israel out of slavery in Egypt in order for Israel to serve God as their Master.
In both the Parasha and the Haftara portions, we see that the by-product of disobedience — or in other words, not living holy lives that God has predestined for us to live — is death. We know from Romans 6:23:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Yeshua the Messiah our Lord.
My dear brothers and sisters, He did not die for nothing, and our salvation was bought with a very heavy price. It is not for us to say that we believe with empty words, but rather to display our faith through our actions in every area of our lives.
In the same way God set apart the children of Israel from all the people of the earth to be His, so He did through His Son, Yeshua our Messiah, for each person that believes in Him. Yeshua told us:
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
Living holy lives — being set apart for God — must be motivated by our love for Him. We are free to choose to obey, and if we truly love Him, we will show it in our actions. Obedience is a result of our love for Him; it is not a means of obtaining salvation from Him!
Let us remember that we are called to be set apart for the King and His Kingdom!
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