Kedoshim 5768 – Gilayon #547

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Parshat Kedoshim






You shall not stealThis is formulated in the plural in order to teach you that one who sees

[an act of theft] and remains silent is a thief, just as is the person who took

possession of the stolen goods.


on Vayikra 19:11)


You shall not steal – …if it has said here, You shall not

steal, You shall not deny falsely, etc. in the singular, then these

words would be addressed to the individual, as are the Ten Commandments; they

would speak of literal theft, lying, and false swearing. Condemnation of those

sins is not the concern of the passage dealing with holiness. If one merely

avoids stealing and swearing falsely he remains far from being holy. However,

when these prohibitions are expressed in the plural they address the nation as

a whole. Now it becomes impossible to say that they refer to gross crimes,

since the entire nation or even a majority within it would not do such things. They

can only occur in any national society as isolated phenomena, and the whole of

the nation will move to counter them, using its sovereign powers. Rather, here

the Torah is talking about the kinds of theft, lies, and false swearing that

can seep into commercial and social life in general. They can even become the

dominant character of the nation – since everyone is involved with them they

lose the mark of disgrace associated with crimes. They even come to be thought

of as an art deserving praise and honor. However, in God's eyes they are lowly

and despicable, as are literal theft, lying, and false swearing. Here God's

word, which comes to sanctify His people, warns against them… that which is

true of commercial life is also true of social life. You shall not steal

includes "stealing knowledge" [genevat da'at = deliberately

creating a false impression]. An upright Jew will acquire a friend and gain his

fellowship – but he will not "steal" his heart.


S.R. Hirsch, ad loc)


You shall be holy – on Human Responsibility and the Meaning of the


Gili Zivan


Kedoshim begins with the command: Speak to the entire congregation of the

children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy, for I, the Lord,

your God, am holy (Vayikra 19:2). This

command and the command, And you

shall do that which is just and good in the eyes of God (Devarim 6:18) are stylistically

different from the other commands found in the Torah. The latter make concrete

demands and their practical significance is clear, while the former are

exceedingly general and may be understood in a variety of ways. Many exegetes

have tried to explain the intention of those verses and the interpretations

they offer can serve as an entrée towards understanding their worldviews

regarding human responsibility and the meaning of the commandments.

In other words: the question whether You shall be holy refers to

specific commandments or whether it is a meta-principle that stands above any

particular commandment – is not merely an exegetical issue. The solution to

this problem will have far-reaching implications for our understanding of personal


Is a "good Jew" merely required to observe

the 613 commandments or must he go beyond that and exercise his own judgment

and decide how to obey them and how to realize their underlying moral

principles in every new historical situation? In other words: Must we seek the

values which shape the Torah's practical demands and implement the commandments

by the light of our understanding of those values? Or should we avoid asking

about the intentions of the commandments and observe them in the spirit of,

"When you see something like this, sanctify it" (Kazeh re'ei

ve'kadesh – i.e., "Do as you are told.") in every time and

situation without considering the consequences and influences of performing the


Following the midrash Vayikra Rabbah, Rashi

interprets our verse:


shall be holy Separate

yourselves from sexual immorality and from sin, for wherever one finds a

barrier against sexual immorality, one finds holiness, [for example:], [They

(the priests) shall not take in marriage] a woman who is a prostitute or one

who was profaned… I, the Lord, Who sanctifies you [am holy] (Vayikra 21:78); and, he shall not profane his offspring…

I am the Lord, Who sanctifies him (Vayikra 21:15); and, They shall be holy… [They shall not take in marriage] a

woman who is a prostitute or one who was profaned (Vayikra 21:67). (Judaica Press translation)


lends the general command You shall be holy a more detailed meaning. The

verse comes to warn us against all of the prohibitions related to sexual

immorality. RaMBaN disagrees with this interpretive tradition and suggests a

completely different understanding of the command:


shall be holy – … in my

opinion this is not the abstinence of abstaining from illicit sex, as the rabbi

[Rashi] says… The point is that while the Torah prohibited illicit

sexual relationships and banned certain foods, it also permits intercourse

between man and wife and the consumption of meat and wine. Thus, a voracious

person can find room to be awash in sensuality with his wife or many wives, to

be drunk with wine and stuffed with meat, and will speak as he wishes about all

disgusting things, for there is no prohibition of this in the Torah. And so he

shall be a scoundrel with the Torah's permission.

That is why after delineating the absolute prohibitions

Scripture came and commanded the general principle that we should limit

ourselves regarding that which is permitted to us… This general

commandment comes to deal with these and similar matters, after [the Torah]

detailed all of the transgressions that are entirely prohibited… This is the

manner of the Torah, to give details and to include cases similar [to the

detailed cases]. After warning about the details of laws governing commercial

transactions between people: do not steal, do not rob, do not cheat, and so on,

it says And

you shall do that which is just and good (Devarim

6:18), that one should include

in this positive commandment the just and the good, and the equitable, and all

manner of going beyond the letter of the law as his fellow would want him to,

as I shall explain when I get to its [the verse's] location, the Holy One

Blessed be He willing..(Partially based on Chavel translation).


the RaMBaN is remains consistent and when he arrives at the verse, And you shall do that which is just and

good in the eyes of God, in

order that it may be well with you, and that you may come and possess the good

land which the Lord swore to your forefathers (Devarim 6:18), he writes:

And you shall do that which is just and good

in the eyes of God – The simple understanding of the plain reading of

the text is: Observe God's commandments and his admonitions and his laws, and,

by doing them, intend to do that which is good and just in His sight alone. That

it may go well with you – a promise, saying that by your doing that which

is right in His eyes, it will go well with you, for God does well by those who

are good and straight in their hearts. Our rabbis explained this in homiletic

fashion, saying that this refers to compromise and to acting beyond the letter

of the law. The meaning is this: Initially He said that you should observe his

laws and his admonitions which He commanded; now it says that

even with regard to that which He did not command you, give

thought to do that which is good and straight in His sight, because He loves

that which is good and just.


is a very important matter, because it would have been impossible for the Torah

to mention all behavior of man with his neighbors and friends, all his

dealings, and all local and national regulations in their entirety. But, after

having mentioned many of them, such as Do not go about as a talebearer among

your countrymen, You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge, Do

not stand upon the blood of your fellow, You shall not insult the deaf, You

shall rise before the aged, etc., the Torah establishes a general rule, decreeing

that one should do that which is good and just in all matters, e.g., compromise

and behavior beyond the letter of the law – such as the law of bar metzra

[The right of pre-emption. When a field is sold, the owner of the neighboring

field has first right of purchase.] and even that which they said (Yoma

81a, paraphrased) "His personality is without blemish and his speech with others is

gentle," so that – in all matters – he will be considered a blameless and

upright person.

The founders of the Religious Kibbutz Movement

viewed RaMBaN's interpretation as a proof-text for their claim that socialism

and communal living are a religious challenge. They understood the kibbutz life with its

economic and social cooperation and the equal division of common property as

constituting a broad interpretation of Scripture springing from the spirit of

the social commandments. R. Yeshayahu Shapira, known as the ADMoR HeHalutz

(the "Pioneer Rebbe") was one of the first people to formulate this

approach. As a girl growing up in the Religious Kibbutz Movement, I became

acquainted with ideas in various ideological seminars.

Yeshayahu Shapira was born to a Hassidic

family in 1891. He became a fervent Zionist in his youth and eventually became

one of the leaders of the Mizrachi movement in Poland. He encouraged the

formation of three groups of Hasidim that were to settle in the Land of Israel.

Two of these groups later founded Kfar Hassidim and the third founded Kfar

Atta. Yeshayahu Shapira moved to the Land of Israel in 1920. He was one of the

founders of the Hapoel HaMizrahi movement, and led it for several years. He

died in 1945.

His article, Ve'Asita et HaTov ve'et

Hayashar ("And you shall do that which is just

and good" – published in Yalkut Ma'amarim al Ra'ayon

Torah Va'Avoda, Jerusalem,

5691, pp. 38-43) became a

cornerstone of the early Religious Kibbutz movement:

One who wishes to observe the Torah in its entirety cannot be satisfied

with observance of the explicit laws; he must also investigate deeply after the

lofty goal implied by those laws and to strive to achieve that goal… there

are really some things that are permitted by the law and have been prohibited

only because of And you shall do

that which is just and good in the eyes of God… Now, when

we are returning to our land and wish to establish authentic Jewish life here,

it is our obligation to again set up for ourselves this goal of sanctifying

life in all its depth and breadth. We must create here a way of life that will

not only be permissible according to the law, but also in terms of You shall

be holy as well as you shall do

that which is just and good.


the kibbutz is no longer the same kibbutz, the cooperation and the equality

have changed (and I am not crying over that – to the contrary…) but the words

of the ADMuR HeHalutz are more relevant today than ever before. Israeli society

is continuously moving into a discourse of "permitted and prohibited"

and "legal and illegal." It is losing its ability to engage in a

discourse about values and society outside the courtroom's walls or beyond the

limits of halakhic rulings.

In a lesson he gave on Parashat

Kedoshim four years ago in the Yaakov Herzog Center, Prof. Avi Ravitzky took

note of the danger in this approach, and I will end this article with a quote

from his concluding remarks (see: Likrat Shabbat – Kriyot Ishiyot beParashat haShavu'a,

Yaakov Herzog Center for Jewish Studies, 5766, pp. 184-190):


Israeli society is undergoing two parallel processes, neither of which I find



the one hand, society in general is undergoing a process of

"juridification" – formal laws, rather than values, ethics, or

culture, occupy the center stage of our consciousness. Every public debate of

values is decided by the Supreme Court. The purview of those judge's rulings is

ever expanding – hakol shafit – everything can be decided in court. In

parallel to this, the religious community is undergoing an accelerated process

of "halakhazation." If, in the past, we learned that Torah includes

halakhah and aggadah, philosophy and midrash, today there seems to be an

equation Torah=halakhah, where halakhah means halakhah in which a decisive

ruling has been made. Even in those areas of life regarding which

traditional halakhah avoided making decisions and to which it did not try to

apply halakhic precedents, today we have are given definitive Da'at Torah

[the authoritative opinion of Torah scholars]. As long as the general Israeli

culture included literature, culture, ethics, and law, and the religious

culture included halakhah, philosophy, aggadah, and midrash – many doorways

were open between them and they could also maintain a soft common discourse. Given

the two parallel processes mentioned above, there is only "black" and

"white" – prohibited and permitted – impure and pure. As a result,

each blade sharpens the other and the two societies collide. Therefore, I would

like to find in the RaMBaN's words a powerful statement against the

juridification of Israeli society and against the halakhazation of religious

society. Obey the halakhah and obey the law, but do not see in them the

entirety of Judaism or the complete realization of humanity.

Dr. Gili Zivan

administers the Yaakov Herzog Center for Jewish Studies in Kibbutz Ein tzurim.


When a stranger resides in

your land, you shall not wrong him.




We learned – Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol says: Why

does the Torah warn us thirty six times – some say: forty-six times – regarding

[mistreatment of] the stranger? Lest you drive him back to evil ways. Why is it

written, You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were

strangers in the land of Egypt (Shemot 23:20)? They learned –

Rabbi Natan says: Do not point out your own shortcoming [i.e., having been a

stranger yourself] in others.


Metziya 59b)


A stranger resides in your

land: If he was a stranger in a foreign country where you too are a stranger,

it would only be natural to love him, for it is the custom of strangers [i.e.

aliens] to love each other (Pesahim 113), and you sympathize with his troubles in

order to avoid them yourself. But if he lives in your land, in any case

do not wrong him.


Davar Vayikra 19:33)


One is also

prohibited to wrong a stranger in the Diaspora. The expression in your land

appears in order to explicate the nature of this wrong: When you dwell in the

land, which I have given to you as a possession, you might say, "It was

given to us as an inheritance," and you will not be considerate of the

stranger who dwells among you, since he has no part or portion in it. You will

wrong him with words that humiliate and degrade him. Similarly, the expression to

wrong is always used by Scripture to speak of the action of the powerful

against the weak, those who benefit from the disadvantage of the weak.

(R. Yitzhak Shemuel Reggio's commentary on Vayikra 19:33)


And love your neighbor as


And love your

neighbor as yourself – Rabbi Akiva says: This is the great principle of

the Torah.

Ben Azzai says: This is the record of

Adam's line [When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God] (Bereishit


is an even greater principle.


Kedoshim 2)


It cannot be understood literally, since it is

well-known that "your life takes precedent over that of your friend."

Rather, the RaMBaM (Hilkhot Avel 14) explains it as

meaning "[doing for your friend] as you would wish your friend would do

for you." It is obvious that no one would expect his friend to love him as

much as he loves himself, but rather to the proper extent taking into account

good manners and how close the people are to each other – to that same degree you

must love other people. That is why it [love your neighbor…] appears

immediately after the preceding admonition [You shall not take vengeance or

bear a grudge]. Just as in the case when you wrong someone, you would not

want him to take vengeance, but you would rather have him forgive your sin, so

you should treat your neighbor as well. This is how the juxtaposition of the

passages is to be interpreted according to the RaMBaM.

I learned another explanation of their

juxtaposition from the Jerusalem Talmud (Nedarim 9:4), which states:

It is written; You shall not take vengeance or

bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. How does this work? If one cuts meat

[with one hand] and accidentally cuts [the other] hand would he then cut the

["offending"] hand? And love your neighbor as yourself. Rabbi

Akiva says: This is the great principle of the Torah.

This means that one who takes vengeance

against his fellow is like someone who cuts meat. The hand holding the knife is

negligent and cuts the other hand. Could someone imagine striking the hand that

cut to avenge it? Similarly, love your neighbor as yourself follows you

shall not take vengeance. Even though one's own life and well-being take

precedence over those of one's friend, in any case it is as if the two were one

in the same person – even though it be proper for one limb to strike the other,

in any case if the damage is already done there is no point to taking vengeance

against the offending limb. Similarly, one should not take vengeance against

one's fellow who has already harmed him, since he is just like you, all of

Israel being a single soul.


MiVolozhon's Ha-Amek Davar, Vayikra 19:18).


And love your neighbor as

yourselfNot that one should love every person as he actually loves himself, for

that is impossible, and Rabbi Akiva already taught that "Your life takes

precedent over your friend's life." Rather as yourself in the sense of [your neighbor] who is like you – as in [the verse] for

you are like unto Pharaoh. So here too as well Love your neighbor who is as yourself; he is equal to

you and similar to you in that he was also created in the image of God, he is a human

being just as you are, and that includes all human beings, for they were all created in the divine image.

The Torah concluded [in the passage] everything with this commandment, just as

it began with each man shall fear his mother and father, because one who

honors the human image and considers it excellences treats himself and all

other people well.

(R. Yitzhak Shemuel Reggio

on Vayikra 18:19)



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