We should be holy. This is the essence of one of this week’s Torah portion, Kedoshim. Time and again the Torah commands us to be holy.
Why repeat it so often? Perhaps because the specific laws included in Chapter 19 (known as the “Holiness Code”) and elsewhere in the Torah are so non-specific as to render them unenforceable.
Farmers are not to reap all the way to the edges of the field so that the poor will be able to gather the gleanings (Lev. 19:9). Is leaving one stalk enough? We should be holy.
We are to criticize our kinsmen (Lev. 19:17). Is a gentle rebuke when a stronger criticism is called for enough? We should be holy.
Love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18). And if our neighbor torments us with late-night parties? We should be holy.
Holiness, it appears, is designed so that we use our judgement when specific application of the laws is omitted in the Torah. Being holy requires us to give serious thought to our thoughts and actions, because we will only get general guidelines.
As James L. Kugel, author of How to Read the Bible, concludes: “You know what it means to be holy,” it seems to say. “So there is no reason to try to specify everything involved. Just don’t do anything that is not appropriate to someone who is holy.”
-Rabbi David Vorspan, Rabbi-in-Residence