The following article is an adapted version of an article that appeared in 2011.
This week, Parshat Kedoshim, candle lighting, which is 18 minutes before sunset, is at 7:46PM in New York City. If you are among the six billion plus inhabitants of our planet who do not live in New York City, you can go to Chabad.org and look up candle lighting in your location. On the Jewish calendar, the new day starts at sunset. The wave of a new day on the Jewish calendar sweeps slowly across the earth’s surface rather than being raucously gonged in at the stroke of midnight in each time zone.
Chabad.org has an article dealing with vulgar speech. Profanity, in addition to being addictive, short circuits precision in speech and turns words into a weapon instead of a means of communication. There are sound reasons to stop using profanity.
Aish.com has an article about a group in India that claims to be descended from the tribe of Ephriam. Those of us who dream of the ingathering of the lost tribes find this story especially appealing.
This week’s parsha has a lot of commandments in it. Some deal with idolatry, others deal with prohibited relationships. Some deal with being kind to the convert, a commandment that I take as also referring to the outsider, the new family on the block, the new person at work, or someone who might not have a supporting social network. For people who have a few generations of being religiously observant, it can mean being kind to the newcomer. There are converts to Judaism, but there are other sorts of “strangers” as well.
The commandments against idolatry have profound social repercussions. If G-d were in any way physical, then whoever most resembles Him physically would be closer to him. A G-d that has no physical form is equally close to all His creations.
There is a metaphor that is commonly used around the Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur that is powerful when one reflects upon it. That is the metaphor of the scale, with sins on one side and good deeds on the other. Communities have a communal scale, and individuals have their own scales in this metaphoric framework. The thought that a regular worker and a community pillar are both putting weights on the scales of their community puts people from different stations in life on an equal footing. There are other metaphors for this level of existence in which equality prevails. “His blood is as red as mine.” Our tears are the same colour”. are both images that are worth reflecting upon.
This parsha has a lot of laws that deal with human interactions and with idolatry. I have to admit that some parshas are a lot more accessible than others. When a Torah portion deals with census figures or construction of the tabernacle, I find that I have to work harder to connect to it.
We are in the time of year when the day ends later. Experiencing the Jewish calendar is enhanced by noting such changes. It means looking at the phase of the moon and knowing roughly how far along we are in the Jewish month.
Each Shabbos has its own “flavor”. Seeing the budding branches on the trees at this time of year evokes for me thoughts of a cycle of death and rebirth. Conversely, Autumn parshas carry with them the visual reminder that nothing under the sun lasts forever. It is impossible for me to look at trees with their leaves, their bark, their roots and their sap without being reminded of diverse individuals being a part of something greater. No Shabbat is exactly like another. Like all of us, each Shabbos is unique. Shabbat Shalom to everyone.