The New Shul

Parshat K’doshim

This week’s parashah, K’doshim, begins with God’s command to Moshe: “Speak to the whole community of Israel, and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I YHWH your God am holy.'” This passage stands out in the Torah not only because of what is being commanded, but because of who is being commanded. The Torah goes out of its way to emphasize that this challenge is addressed to the entire community.

The S’fat Emet saw a connection between the who and the what of this commandment. True holiness, he taught, can be achieved only collectively. If we think of spirituality as something strictly personal, a matter of cultivating our inner life, then we will never achieve the real thing. Authentic holiness means finding God not just within ourselves, but in relationship to one another. That is why the most sacred passages in our prayer book, the Kaddish and K’dushah (whose names come from the word for holiness)are recited only in the presence of a minyan.

May we strive as a community for that which we cannot achieve alone.