Study Torah, Become Holy (A Little)

France Street Torah Study
Saturday, April 30, 2011 – 10 am to noonish
Torah Portion: Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27)
Haftarah: Amos 9:7-15 (Ashkenazim); Ezekiel 20:2-20 (Sephardim)
Neal & Ann’s Living Room (email scoop at sonic dot net for directions)

Torah is many things to many people, or even many things to the same person depending upon which part he or she is studying. It’s simultaneously a history, law code, spiritual guide, extended mythology, moral platform, conceptual trampoline. This week, our topic du Torah is “holiness” — or to literally translate our portion’s title, “Holinesses.”

Simply put, our text concerns practical rules for spiritual living. We see little things, like rising in the presence of the aged and/or learned; medium things, like not stealing or lying; and big things, like “Love your neighbor as yourself” — the most repeated commandment in the Torah, perhaps because it’s so counterintuitive.

Richard Elliott Friedman, in his “Commentary on the Torah,” says this: “… If one had to choose only one chapter out of the Torah to make known, it might well be this one.” He further notes that in this case, the medium may also be the message: “The strange mixing of so many different kinds of commandments may convey that every commandment is important. Even if we are naturally inclined to regard some commandments as more important than others, and some commandments as most important of all, this tapestry presses us to see what is important and valuable in every commandment, even commandments that one may question.”

(Writing this out just now, I found myself typing “commendment” for “commandment.” It’s possible that I’m typing with a Yiddish accent, but don’t the mitzvot — those customary and spontaneous acts which connect our world with the Divine through a series of micro-redemptions — commend us to God, at least in theory?)

Questioning commandments, or anything, is an important part of Judaism. But to question, you must first know. ;-) Come and learn a little this Shabbat in a safe place for questions. (We can’t guarantee the answers, though!) If time permits, in addition to Kedoshim we will also study the second chapter of the rabbinical wisdom text, Pirke Avot. This thousand-year-old collection of pithy sayings, containing such gems as Hillel’s “If not now, when?” is traditionally studied chapter-by-chapter on the Shabbats between Pesach and Shavuot (this year, June 7-8). If not us, who?

Be well, and Shabbat shalom,

Neal

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