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Parashat Kedoshim

May 6, 2022
5 Iyyar 5782
Parashat Kedoshim
20th Day of the Omer
Leviticus 19:1 -- 20:27

Dear Friends,


Here we are again at one of those moments of convergence, when our Torah portion, a secular holiday, and current affairs collide.

This week's Torah portion, Kedoshim, is sometimes referred to as the "holiness code." As we are reminded throughout, “You shall be holy, for I, Adonai, your God, am holy.”

We are told many things in this Torah portion about how to behave -- ritually and spiritually. We are told that we need to bring holiness into our lives in the way in which we live and interact with others and with the Divine. As we read through Kedoshim, it becomes readily apparent that for most of us, achieving this balance is the work of a lifetime, and one that we may never fully achieve.

However, if we look at the mitzvot -- the commandments -- outlined in this portion differently, we might recognize that they can be more than boundaries; they can be connectors, in the words of Rabbi Elyse Goldstein. In this way, the commandments become part of an ongoing process to behave in the Divine image.

How does that relate to the very secular celebration of Mother’s Day and next month’s Father’s Day? Both holidays are known not only for their commercialization but hopefully as an opportunity to honor parents, regardless of gender. This honoring of parents brings us right back to Kedoshim, where we are once more reminded of the importance of honoring one's parents. We are told to honor them for simply taking on the task of raising us. It does not specify birth parents.

The task of raising children is not simple. There truly are no road maps. Some parents are more adept than others just as some children are easier to raise than others. Each family is as unique as its journey.

In a week when we celebrate family, it is important to also note that many of us have family that we have chosen -- people that we have invited into our lives and who we love with all our hearts. These are the blessings of family. Our tradition supports this wholeheartedly as we are told to welcome the stranger, the stranger who is no longer a stranger once welcomed. We should also note that in traditional Jewish law, it is a man’s duty to marry and have children, whereas a woman is free to remain childless.

This last point brings me to this specific moment in time. The world around us is currently having a screaming match about a woman’s right to dictate her own future. My father of blessed memory used to say, if all of these people would be concerned with the children already among us, the world would be a very different place.

Earlier I wrote that each family is unique: that the decision to have and raise a child is personal. Having accompanied friends on the journey of making these decisions, I know that they are not simple or without resonances.

The stakes are high. Our voices as Jews need to be clear. We stand for life -- the life of the mother and the children she chooses to bear.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi LInda Shriner-Cahn

Sun, December 4 2022 10 Kislev 5783