6 Iyar 5776 פרשת קְדֹשִׁים, ו’ אייר, תשע”ו
Kedoshim contains crucial teachings from the Torah. Over the past eight years or so I have been bringing you teachings that differ from most synagogues and religious groups. I have called myself anti-religious. The word religious can be misunderstood; for some people it means something good and for others, something negative. As a young man, I was a leftist and an admirer of one of our own, Karl Marx who defined religion as the opiate of the masses. I still believe that today. How can someone who is a rabbi believe such a thing? It is all a matter of semantics. When we read the Torah, we read words which have passed their time and which have lost their true meaning today. I inaugurated a system which I call “the Paradigm Shift” where I teach that we need to get out of the boxes in which the religious systems have placed us and be open to our Creator who reveals Himself to us though the Words He gave us at Mount Sinai. He told us that these Words were not only for the people at that time but that they would also be applicable for us today. These Ten Commandments make up the basic constitution for Israel. Over the years, many things were added and changed in order to have them apply for the various times throughout history.
It is more important to understand the principles that are behind what is being told us in the Torah than to take things literally. Ramban (Rabbi Nachmanides) exhorted us to avoid the literal and to understand the spirit of the Torah. Even his words have been misinterpreted as many new traditions were being formed. In my opinion, these traditions hold the same idea as suicide which is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. We tend to hold onto traditions long after they have outgrown their validity. I come from the Sephardic background and my traditions differ from the Ashkenazi traditions. In Israel little by little Sephardic traditions are being lost due to the take-over of the Ashkenazi ones. There are various levels of traditions from very strict to very lenient. The principles of Torah are not black and white which comes from a very Greek, Aristotelian way of understanding where everything is broken down into definitions. Hebrew mentality is holistic in which we live in the grey area. The name Israel brings the picture that we are constant struggle with our Creator. We love to have lively arguments about the Word of God contrary to those whose religions which place people in a box removing the right to question. God has given us the gift of free will, making us different from any of other aspect of His creation. Not even the angels are as free as we are to the point that we can even choose to disobey God. We have taken this freedom and confuse it by being libertine.
People come to me asking to become a Jew. I ask them if they are not happy with the way they were born. Do they think that our Creator committed a mistake? Can a leopard change his spots or the Ethiopian change the color of his skin as we read in the Prophet Jeremiah? As soon as we accept who we are, we can begin to live. Being part of Israel is a calling; it is not a race. Our Creator brings people from every part of the world to be His. Abraham was not born a Jew yet he as an Aramean is the father of Israel. When the Jews left Egypt there were many non-Jews, the erev rav who intermingled with us. God brought us all together and placed the desire to follow Him and to follow Torah in our hearts.
There is a change of direction in this portion Kedoshim. He said to Moses “Speak to the children of Israel. Tell them, they shall be holy as I am holy”. In the Hebrew language, the second part of a saying usually precedes the first as in other languages such as Spanish where we say “casa blanca” which is literally “house white” but the English would be white house. This phrase would have been better translated as “I am totally different, unique and you shall be unique because you belong to me.” In this way, we remove all the holier than thou attitudes. The word “Kadosh” holy does not mean “spiritual in the religious sense as it has been translated. In Gen 38:21 you see that Judah goes and sees a prostitute in the streets – Tamar his daughter in law. The word for prostitute here is “kedasha”. It means that this woman has been separated for that profession. One can be kadosh or separated for good or for evil. This idea is repeated in Deut. 23:17 (18). When God said that we are to be “kadosh”, it means that we belong to Him, we are His property.
The Ten Commandments and other areas are developed next followed by sexuality in chapter 18-20 including homosexuality. Today we are drowning in a sea of correctness, political, sociological and theological. We can no longer tell things for what they are. The lobby for the minorities are imposing their way of thinking upon the rest of the world which bows down to them. It is one thing to disagree but quite another to kill those who don’t agree with them. This is not about being judgmental since we all have “holes”; no one is better than anyone else. If you want to compare yourself with someone, compare yourself with the Creator. That will humble you. We have been forced to follow religious traditions instead of the true meaning of the Torah which gives us life. The best reason to want to be a Jew is not because we are smart or rich, but because we follow the Torah, which has been given to us by our Creator!. That however is the least reason that I hear for converting to Judaism. A true Israelite follows the Torah as a daily way of life. It is not a series of religious rules and regulations. Our Creator has not only given us “free will” but also a conscience which causes us into to have a constant struggle about what to do in each situation. We continuously fail but He is always there to pick us up when we acknowledge what we have done wrong. If we don’t, we crawl on our bellies like a worm but Our Creator wants us instead to walk upright with Him.
The word Pharisee = Perushim, has a special meaning similar to niddah and kadosh. All three words mean to be separated. The niddah which has been referred to as the woman during her menstruation simply means that it is a time of separation for her from her husband. We need to understand what words in the Torah actually mean to know what our Creator is trying to teach us instead of drawing the wrong conclusions. It is more important to be able to put the principles of Torah into practice than to attend services where we beat our breasts crying out “mea culpa”. To say that we are Shomer Torah (Torah observant) means that our Creator walks with us every day of our lives. Yeshua did not invent the Torah rather his goal was to bring his people back to the Torah. He was a rabbi, a teacher and in his Sermon on the Mount he brought us beautiful teachings. A group of Scribes and Pharisees came to challenge him as he spoke. We know that our Messiah Yeshua was inspired by this chapter when they asked him which the most important verse in the Torah was. He said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul and your might (which he took from the Shema in Deut.) and love your neighbor as you love yourself (from Vayikra 19:18).” This response was not new. Many years prior to Yeshua, Rabbi Hillel quoted something similar. It is important to understand what Yeshua was really saying not what the religious people say he was saying about it. The word “ahava” love has nothing to do with the way we know love today. The basic meaning is being loyal. The word Lev in Hebrew which means heart has nothing to do with feelings but with volition, will and intention. When the Scriptures speak of feelings they refer to the bowels or gut. Yeshua warned us about this accusing the religious fanatics of destroying the Word of God. This is still happening at this moment. Although Yeshua came to bring us back to the Torah, religions accuse him of saying that the Torah was no longer valid or that he abolished the Torah. This could not be further from the truth. He was made to be a culprit instead of honored as a hero. Many of us defend these wrong positions even to the death. I am calling for a total restoration of the true meaning of the torah according to the times, not to be taken literally but for us to see its intention. The Torah changed the status of women who had no value and were considered a commodity to be sold or even killed. Slaves were given the right to be humans in the Torah. Slavery still exists today enforced by people who impose their own understanding.
In these passages we are told that the act of homosexuality is wrong. It is simply not a good way of life. Why? Anything that goes against the laws of nature brings destruction to humanity. That is what our Creator wanted to protect us from. If the world was completely homosexual there would be no more natural reproduction of the species. We do not have the right to judge those who choose to live this lifestyle. God will do that. The problem is that their idea of morality is being imposed upon those who do not choose to live or believe in that lifestyle. A person has the right to do as he believes in the privacy of his own home but not to force others to do the same. When we protest, we are called bigots, extremists, religious fanatics or even terrorists. There is no balance. Law cannot legislate morality. The Torah brings us into constant struggle with morality. We must have the right to express our opinion. Today certain ideas are imposed upon our children in schools and we as parents are given no option. In the US there is a large problem about transgender bathrooms. This tiny minority is causing everyone to change the norm. Teachers have the right to tell the children that what they are learning at home is wrong. This happened years ago between Creationism and Darwinism and now Scientists are proving Creationism.
Our Creator told us that we are to be holy as He is holy, because He is unique, He is bringing us to Him and we are part of Him. He has given us the torah and Messiah Yeshua came to show us how to live the torah. Is this happening? The truth is that it is not happening. The traditions of each religion are stronger than the truth. It is time to wake up and to follow our Creator and not men. This last year has been very hard for us because many come here looking for a religion. I cannot give them that. I want to take us out of religion so that we can learn to think on our own. To convert from one religion to another is a lateral movement while having a relationship with the Creator is vertical. We don’t need religion; we need a relationship with God. Our Messiah Yeshua told us, you shall know the Truth and the truth shall make you free. God is Truth (not knowledge) and He does indeed make us free. Knowing God has nothing to do with facts, rather it is about having an intimate relationship with Him. He sets us free as He takes away all the things that hold us back. We don’t need an intermediary. He reaches out to us directly. Our prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah said that He would change our heart of stone to a heart of flesh. He cleanses us and makes us anew as he puts his Word in us. To be kadosh does not mean we are better than anyone else but it simply means that we belong to Him. No one can take us away from our relationship with him as we do teshuva, acknowledging that we are full of holes and need his healing touch. I always say that our God is the God of the beginning again.