Kedoshim: Fail Grasp On The Big Picture

This week’s Torah portion is Parshat Kedoshim which opens with the phrase “Kedoshim Tehiyu: you shall be holy.” (Vayikra/Levitcus 19:2).

The entire purpose of the Torah is about becoming holy. All of the various Mitzvot (Commandments) that the Torah articulates are given to transform us spiritually and ethically. If this is the case, then why here in the middle of the Torah are we told, “Kedoshim Tehiyu: you shall be holy”?

As strange as it may say sound, it is very simple to follow Halacha (Jewish Law) perfectly (in a technical sense) but somehow have a, “Frail Grasp On The Big Picture” of coming closer to God and being moral people. Somehow there are people who can do every Mitzvah there is, and yet they do not understand that all of the Mitzvot are being given to make us become holy. Let me share with you two examples of this phenomenon.

1. Several years ago I heard a story about a group of observant Jewish men who loved football. These were men who followed the laws of Shabbat and Kashrut to every detail; men who prayed regularly who sent their children to Jewish day schools. Their team was playing a crucial game that was on Shabbat and they very much wanted to be at the game. So they found a hotel in walking distance of the arena, arranged to not have to carry their tickets to the arena so they would not break the law of carrying in a public domain on Shabbat, and had enough people so that they would have a Minyan (the quorum needed for a public service). They brought with them a Torah, prayer books and all other religious articles needed and they had a very fine Kosher caterer prepare for them three wonderful Shabbat meals. They went to their game and cheered on their team and though they did not break one area of Halacha, though they fulfilled every necessary Mitzvah, they missed the entire purpose of Shabbat. I know a number of people who come nowhere near the level of technical observance of these men, and yet understand better what Shabbat is about. They had a “Frail Grasp On The Big Picture” and missed the message of “Kedoshim Tehiyu: you shall be holy.”

2. There was a family who owned a Kosher meat business in Iowa called Rubashkin. This was a company that was following the highest level of Kashrut standards. No detail of Jewish law was missed. Rabbis of several prominent organizations gave them their approbation. However, Rubashkin was breaking many State and Federal laws, engaging in financial improprieties, mistreating their workers, and causing undue pain and suffering to animals in the process of slaughtering them. Ever detail of the laws of Kashrut were being followed—but Rubashkin was not Kosher in any way. They had a, “Frail Grasp On The Big Picture” and missed the message of “Kedoshim Tehiyu: “you shall be holy.”

As much as the details of Judaism are very important we must make sure that the details do not make us have a “Frail Grasp On The Big Picture” and miss the message of “Kedoshim Tehiyu: you shall be holy.” Our observance of Mitzvot should not be an experience of checking off “a things to do list.” Mitzvot need to guide us on our mission of spirituality, living our lives ethically and fixing this broken world.

This week’s title. “Frail Grasp On The Big Picture” is the title of a song by Eagles. The song is on the album Long Road Out of Eden which is the seventh studio album by Eagles. It was released in 2007.