Leviticus 19:1 – 20:27

Kedoshim consists of instructions for holiness, including moral injunctions, ritual laws, and our attitude and behavior towards every aspect of Creation.


OUR JOURNEYS HAVE TAKEN US TO THE CENTER OF TORAH, where we enter into the mystery of the holy. Leviticus is the middle book and Kedoshim is the middle portion. Here we are blessed with a vision of holiness, a vision of what holiness might look like here in our world, in our everyday lives and at the center of our awareness. Kedoshim blesses us with an intimate knowledge of the source of that holiness. The reason we must be holy is that God is holy. After every injunction this reasoning is alluded to through the words, “Ani YHVH.” (“I AM THE UNPRONOUNCEABLE GROUND OF BEING/BREATH OF LIFE.”)

My training in logic calls forth the missing piece. God tells us, “I am holy (and since we are One… yes, your essence is God), then so you too shall be holy.” This missing piece of the syllogism — the realization of our identity in God — dawns on us slowly and calls us into the holiness that is our birthright.

LOOKING THROUGH GOD’S EYES, I can see a world that is whole, undivided by class, race, gender, yet exquisitely beautiful in its diversity; each part of the whole uniquely precious. This vision guides me towards justice and opens my arms in embrace of the stranger. My holiness rests on the “I AM” that God speaks from within me.

That “I AM” reverberates through me and also speaks from the center of every moment in time and every molecule in space.

When I chant the Sh’ma* each day, I am reminded to listen within me for that “I AM” — which is the source of holiness. By listening and paying attention to the holiness at the core of each moment, to the holiness of existence itself, I am sanctifying myself for a life of being holy. This means being true to my own essential nature, which is loving and generous and interdependent.

I am blessed with knowing how precious my life is, and through this intimate knowledge I am guided to cherish all life.
* “Listen (Israel)…” this phrase begins the statement that affirms God’s unity.


ALL MY EXPERIENCE combines the perceptions of object and ground. Whatever sensation or sound or shape or color or feeling presents itself in this moment seems to become distinct and separate from the ground of my experience. The ground becomes background and usually is so obscured by my attention to the presenting object, that it all but disappears.

In the pursuit of holiness we are challenged to retain a constant simple awareness of the Ground of our Being (the holiness of God/existence) while at the same time responding in righteousness to the demands of each moment. With our spiritual practice we are building the awareness of that holy ground of pure being as a foundation for our experience.

Some might think that a constant awareness of God might make us “otherworldly” or removed. On the contrary. The amazing paradox is that splitting our awareness between object and ground actually lets us be more present and available to the truth of each moment, as we rise to the spiritual challenge of holiness.

WHEN I HAVE ESTABLISHED that holy foundation for my life, then my inner life and outer actions can come into alignment with God’s love for all of us. As I move into the world I can become a servant of that love.

And here is the challenge of Kedoshim: The divine holiness that is in us must be expressed in the shaping of our lives.


I have reverence for my parents,
where I come from,
I protect and cherish the sacred times of rest,
I leave the corners of the field,
a portion of my earnings for the poor and the stranger,
I do not steal or lie and swear falsely,
I pay my workers fairly and on time.


I do not curse the deaf or
put obstacles before the blind,
I am fair to rich and poor alike,
I don’t gossip,
I cannot ignore the violence in my world,
I don’t hold grudges or hatred in my heart.


I tell the truth even when it’s hard,
I love my neighbor as I would myself,
I keep separate what needs to be
separate for its integrity,
when I eat I am mindful of resources,
I live in awe of the holiness of our world,
and the presence of the stranger
awakens compassion in me.

KEDOSHIM GIVES ME THESE MEASURES, so that I can examine my life and see just how connected I am to the divine core of holiness within me. The disconnection from that core will manifest in apathy, mistrust, despair, and destructiveness. The spiritual challenge of Kedoshim is to reconnect to the divine perspective within us, to see through God’s eyes, hear with Her ears, and open the great heart of compassion that can guide our every thought, word and deed.


The practice for this week of Kedoshim is to spend some time each day in meditation imagining and opening to the divine ocean in which we all swim. Let all thoughts and feelings float away, leaving you to encounter the pure presence, which is no-thing, which is the source of all that is holy.

Ocean of Being Meditation

IMAGINE THAT YOU ARE A FISH swimming happily in a great sea. The light of the sun shines through to the deep kingdom teeming with life. Your world is beautiful, dangerous and endless, filled with color and adventure. You have a nice school of fish to swim with and everybody gets along pretty well. There’s always enough to eat and there are always interesting things to do.

THEN ONE DAY, YOU DISCOVER THE OCEAN. One day you realize and actually perceive a great spirit that holds everything that you know. You realize that it has been embracing and carrying you all your life, that it is supremely intelligent and loving. You begin to feel its ebb and flow, first very subtly, and then the message of the ocean becomes clearer and more insistent. You realize that the push and pull of the tides are addressing you personally and you want to respond somehow.

YOU BEGIN TO HAVE SOME DOUBTS so you tell some of your friends at school. The other fish think you are crazy. “There is no ocean,” they say. “Where do you see this ocean?”

AFTER A WHILE YOU HAVE TO LEAVE THE SCHOOL and go off on your own, because this sense of the ocean is so mysterious and so beautiful. It is hard at first to do the usual fish things because the sense of the ocean’s love is so compelling. But gradually you learn to swim in it and feel its greatness all around you.

AFTER A WHILE YOU RETURN TO YOUR SCHOOL. Because your heart is overflowing with gratefulness and praise for the ocean, you begin to see how precious this place of the deep is, and you learn how to love all of its creatures.

Torah Journeys: The Inner Path to the Promised Land
©2006 Shefa Gold. All rights reserved.