This week’s Torah portion will certainly challenge you. If someone were to ask you if you want to behave in a holy manner you would surely answer yes. But just what is holy? In the second verse of Leviticus 19 we read,
“…you shall be holy, because holy am I, the L-rd your G-d.”
Holiness is defined not by man and what he believes to be holy, but rather by G-d and what He says is holy. This week’s Torah portion is only two chapters (Lev. 19-20), but it reveals many things about G-d’s expectations for you and me if we want to be holy. We are commanded to honor our parents, stay away from idolatry, remember the poor and take some of what is ours and give it to them, not to make false oaths, to tell the truth, not to cheat someone, not to curse the deaf, not to put a stumbling block before the blind, not to gossip, to be sexually pure, to respect the elderly, and not to lead your daughter into prostitution. I think we all would agree that we need to follow these things. But what about a few additional commandments found in this same chapter listed in between those that we just agreed are important to follow?
What about the fact that the L-rd says not to wear a garment which is a mixture of wool and linen, or not to destroy your beard, or not to eat the fruit of a tree the first four years, or not to have any tattoos? Are these also worthy to follow?
The problem is that it is human nature to pick and choose what we think is important, and disregard what we think is not so relevant. Who are we to say which of these commandments are relevant today and which are not. Remember it is G-d and G-d alone Who defines what is holy and what is not. People can easily see why one should not steal or why one should be sexually pure, but is it really an issue of holiness if someone wears a garment which contains linen and wool or whether or not someone has a tattoo? Just because you may not understand the reason why G-d would command certain things is not a reason to reject such commandments. Let me ask you a question. Which would demonstrate a greater degree of faith in G-d and love for Him? Following only the commandments which you agreed with or doing those and even the ones that you don’t understand why He would command such things?
If one’s obedience is only based upon knowledge then faith is not at work. Remember the Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please G-d (Hebrew 11:6). If one really believes that G-d is G-d and therefore His wisdom is perfect, then this person will obey the L-rd regardless of what G-d commands. If one’s obedience is based on one’s knowledge then that person is really making himself G-d, for he is in essence deciding for himself what he should do or not to do.
How do you respond to the commandments of G-d— by trusting and obeying or only doing the ones which you understand? Remember what the Scripture says,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” Proverbs 3:5
One way leads to holiness, the other to pride and a rejection of the L-rd’s counsel. Shabbat Shalom.
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