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    Parshat Kedoshim / Leviticus 19-20 Sabbath Sermon
    by Pastor Rob Miller (Agudat Bris Covenant Fellowship)

    This week we read the parsha of Kedoshim. "And Yahweh spoke to Moshe (Moses) saying: Speak to the entire congregation of Bnei Yisroel and say to them: Kedoshim tih'yu {You shall be holy} because I, Yahweh your Elohim, am holy. [19:1]" Our parsha then enumerates thirteen positive and thirty-eight negative commandments through which one obtains this kedusha {holiness}.

    The world thinks of "holiness" as some abstract concept, often involving a guru sitting atop a mountain, withdrawn from the world, fasting and meditating to the point that the walls could cave in around him without distraction. This is not the Jewish definition of "Kedushah", of holiness.

    Types & Shadows

    Yahweh's instruction to Israel, when He made them His peculiar people, was, "Ye shall be holy, for I Yahweh your Elohim am holy" (Lev.19:2). Then He instituted the tabernacle service, with all its types and ceremonies, to teach men the way to holiness. Anciently when an Israelite sinned, he was required to bring an offering, a kid of the goats or sheep, to the door of the Sanctuary, confess over its head the sin or sins he had committed, and slay the victim with his own hand. The object lesson was plain -- sin brings death. Emphatically, he was told by the prophet, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezek. 18:4). Rabbi Sha'ul (Paul) later confirmed this by saying, "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).

    The death of the individual sinner is demanded by the broken law. That is justice. But the Israelitish transgressor who presented himself at the Sanctuary with an offering brought a substitute. A lamb or goat could die in his stead. Yahweh provided a way by which a sinner could be forgiven, the law could be satisfied, justice could be vindicated, and yet the transgressor could retain his life. That way was vicarious atonement--someone else may bear the penalty for sin.

    There was an additional lesson available to the guilty Israelite who appeared at the door of the Tabernacle: In his progress back to Yahweh and holiness he could only do certain things. He could bring a lamb or a goat, he could confess his sin, he could even slay the victim with his own hand; but here his work ended, and here the whole process might have ended, except that a mediator was provided to carry on the work, for no transgressor had direct access to Yahweh in the Sanctuary service. The priest had to offer the blood, which was the essential element of sacrifice. "The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (Lev. 17:11).

    Thus, even in the typical service, man was taught that he cannot be saved by his own works. An anointed priest must take the blood of the sacrificial victim, place it or sprinkle it upon the appropriate furniture of the Sanctuary, and, in the words of instruction to Aaron, "bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord" (Lev. 10:17).

    When a transgressor brought a lamb to the Temple, he placed his hands upon its head while he confessed his sins, thus symbolically placing his sin upon the head of the innocent animal, which then died in his stead. His sin was thus transferred, through the animal's shed blood, to the Tabernacle itself. In the case of ordinary sins, the blood was either placed upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering or sprinkled upon its side. This constituted a record of the sin itself.

    When an Israelite slew his offering, and the priest administered the blood, the Israelite was forgiven. But a record of the sin remained. In fact, the sin itself had simply been transferred to the Tabernacle, and in some way had to be disposed of. This was accomplished in the yearly ceremony on the Day of Atonement. This holy day was a day of judgment, on the outcome of which depended the life of the nation. Every case from the preceding year was, in type, reviewed. The apostle describes it: "In those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year" (Heb. 10:3).

    On the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) the High Priest went into the most holy place of the sanctuary with appropriate sacrifices. "He shall make atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins. And so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation. . . . And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for it. . . . And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel" (Lev.16:16-19).

    The figure is obvious. The priest in this ceremony removed the accumulated guilt of the year. Then "Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness. And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited" (Lev. 16:21-22).

    Here, in type, was the final disposition of sins --- sent away, removed forever. No Israelite, as he afflicted his soul before the Tabernacle that day, could avoid the lesson so obvious and plain: only confessed sins are removed. The reality of the lesson for the believer today is inescapable.

    "Ye Shall Be Holy"

    Sin brings separation from Yahweh. Yahweh wishes to separate us from sin, that He may reunite us to Himself. Tenderly, He is calling His people to "follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14).

    Yes, my dear one, it is Yahweh's plan for His people to be holy. This was taught, as we have seen, in the Torah . But, since "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins", Rebbe Yah'shua (Jesus) had to shed His own precious blood in order that we might obtain this true, antitypical holiness. And, "if the blood of bulls and of goats and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to Yahweh, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living Yahweh?" Friend, do you know anything about this experience? Has the blood of Messiah been applied to your heart? You see, the Lord wants to cleanse us as well as to forgive us. And "If we confess our sins," I John 1:9 tells us, "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins AND to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness."

    Doubtless, many will ask whether this cleansing is essential. Yahweh's specific message to His people was, and still is, "Ye shall be holy, for I Yahweh your Elohim am holy" (Lev. 19:2). In the Holy Scriptures, the people of Yahweh were called holy. What about us? Aren't we to be called holy? Holiness is required of Yahweh's people, as much today as ever. There are those in our own ranks who are trying to streamline Yahweh's plan of Biblical holiness; regardless of their blood-draining efforts, the word of Yahweh remains true and is still saying, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."


    The command to be holy seems difficult to fulfill. How can finite, limited man be "holy"? Moreover, what is holiness?

    The commentaries teach that holiness translates as "separateness." Rashi, citing the Midrash, teaches that we must separate ourselves, specifically from illicit sexual relationships. With this reading, Rashi creates a logical flow of ideas from the previous Torah portion, Acharei Mot, which ended with a list of forbidden relations.

    We are to separate ourselves from things which go against the spirit of the law not just the letter of law.

    Nachmanides, on the other hand, sees this verse as a more general teaching to avoid excess. Nachmanides understands that we are to separate ourselves from things which are not explicitly forbidden, things that go against the spirit of Jewish law although they are within the letter of law.

    In either case, according to both Rashi and Nachmanides, we are called on to be holy -- to be separate. Why? The Torah gives a reason: 'because I, Yahweh, your Elohim, am holy." But, if holiness is a trait of Yahweh our question returns, how can man achieve it.

    The Kotzker Rebbi said: "How can man be holy? Only because "I Yahweh your Elohim am Holy." (Shem Mishmuel Vayikra page 277)

    The Shem Mishmuel, a grandson of the Kotzker Rebbi, explained his grandfather's teaching as follows: "Every Believer has within him a part of Yahweh's holiness, which enables him to achieve holiness. Man can become holy, because man was created in the image of Yahweh. But every person possesses a different [spirit], therefore each person has a different holiness within him.

    Had Cain realized that a unique aspect of Yahweh existed in Abel, he never would have killed him. He must have thought that Abel was expendable. He failed to understand that the image of Yahweh within every person is unique, and that for mankind to achieve holiness all of these different parts of Yahweh need to be united.

    A wonderful dichotomy emerges. This section of the Torah was taught publicly in order to teach man how to become holy, and within the method of this teaching lies the essential message -- holiness is something which belongs to the collective Kingdom of Yahweh.

    If holy means separate, a person might be led to believe that in order to become holy he must recoil, and remove himself from the community. Therefore this section was taught publicly -- to communicate to us that the holiness we seek is found in the community.

    New light is thus shed on the celebrated Talmudic passage in which Hillel is asked by a potential convert to teach him the entire Torah while he stands on one foot. Hillel responds: "What is despised by you do not do to your friend. This is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary; go learn!" (Shabbat 31a)

    Hillel's Aramaic paraphrase of the verse "Love your neighbor as your self" is found in the Targum Yerushalmi, as the explanation of the verse. Rashi's explanation of the passage seems strange: What is despised by you, do not do to your friend. Do not abandon your friend and the friend of your father. (Proverbs 27) This refers to Yahweh. Do not break His Words, for you hate when your friend ignores your words.

    According to Rashi, the friend which you should not mistreat is none other than Yahweh Himself! Hillel, according to this understanding, literally had in mind the entire Torah, ethical and ritual, interpersonal relationships as well as the personal relationship with Yahweh.

    One does not grow "into" the experience of holiness; however, he does--or should--grow "in" it. The act is definite and complete; being made holy is a definite experience, an instantaneous operation of the Spirit of Yahweh in the life of a believer, that seperates the believerfrom the world (Acts 1:5). Strange as it may seem, many who enter into this blessing of holiness soon lose it. The same disastrous experience was true in the early Community. Moral failures are largely responsible for the unbelief that robs us of this blessing and leaves us cold and dry. The strain of trying to live the holy life is insufferable when once the life of the Spirit itself refuses to manifest.

    First, every sanctified believer should sincerely desire to please Yahweh at all times. It was Rabbi Sha'ul who warned the saints at Corinth, who were evidently unsettled, to cleanse themselves "from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of Yahweh." This is a challenge to every double minded, self-centered believer.

    We notice the burden that was on Rabbi Sha'ul's (Paul's) heart for the Thessalonians when we read these words: "That we might see your face and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith" (1 Thess. 3:10). And why did Rabbi Sha'ul (Paul) want to bring this perfection to the Thessalonians? "To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before Yahweh, even our Father, at the coming of our King Messiah YahShua with all His saints" (1 Thess. 3:13).

    My dear one, if Yahweh has called us to holiness, then He is demanding that we be cleansed and set apart as a vessel suitable for the Rebbe's use. Yahweh's family is made up of such holy believers, believers whose sins have been washed away by the blood of Messiah YahShua. And the most dependable evidence that one has received this cleansing is the seperated life. Now, why do I say this? Because we are told that "by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us" (Heb. 10:14-15).

    The Talmud tells the story of the sage Hillel, and of a man who wagered with his friend that he could anger the great scholar. So the protagonist of the story (perhaps more accurately described as the antagonist) went and stood outside the Mikvah on the eve of Yom Kippur, as Hillel was busy with preparations for the holiday. He called out "who here is Hillel?" Then, when the sage emerged, he asked him an extremely silly and non-urgent question.

    Hillel answered the man with great patience. The fellow then permitted the sage to return to the Mikvah, and presumably remove half his clothing, before calling him out a second time for a similar purpose - and again, Hillel was patient in the extreme, and answered him gently.

    This went on yet a third time, at which point the man confessed to Hillel that he had now lost a considerable sum for failing to arouse the leader's ire. Hillel responded that it was better that fortunes should be lost than that Hillel should become angry!

    The holiness we seek. Not a person who is withdrawn from the world, but someone who achieves perfection both in his interaction with Yahweh, and in his interaction with his fellow man without which no one will see Yahweh (Heb. 12:14).

    Website: http://www.agudatbris.com/

    This page was created on 12 June 2000
    Last updated on 12 June 2000

    Reproduced with Thanks