Spring naar inhoud


april 28, 2018

Dabeir el-kol-adat b’nei-yisraeil v’amarta aleihem k’doshim tih’yu

ki kadosh ani Adonai Eloheichem

Drasha by Mathieu Daniël Polak

Parasha: K’doshim

Vayikra 19 & 20

Uilenburger Synagoge Amsterdam

Friday April 27, 2018

The meaning of the Hebrew word Kadosh, set apart, becomes especially clear in Vayikra 20:26: ” because I, the Eternal, am holy and have distinguished you from the other peoples to be my people. ”

The text of K’doshim in my opinion consists of three components namely: Vayikra 19: 1-2, Vayikra 19: 3 – 20:25, Vayikra 20: 26-27.

Component 1: HaShem states that the people of Yisraeil must be holy.” Be holy because I, the Eternal, your God is holy ” is an assignment. At that moment it is not entirely clear what sacred means.

Component 2: HaShem gives content factors that make up that holiness, such as respecting the Shabbat, not stealing, not deceiving, respect for older people and loving strangers like yourself. With these rules the concept of holiness is described.

Component 3: it becomes clear what these rules lead to is the distinction between the people of Yisraeil and the other peoples. The literal meaning of Kadosh, ‘set apart’, has become clear.

The idea of ​​setting apart plays a major role in Judaism. Immediately in the second chapter of the Torah is spoken about the seventh day (Shabbat) that is separate from the other six days. HaShem did not speak to the whole people but took Moshe apart and gave him an assignment to bring the people to the promised land. Even in the sentence in K’doshim ‘Be holy because I am holy’ makes a distinction between you (the people) and I (HaShem).

The Dutch word heilig (holy) seems to mean something completely different from the Hebrew word. Holy refers to healing, making a whole, perfection. Then in my opinion the assignment would be: ” Be in balance, pay attention to everything, take care of yourself and the other person, be complete because I your God is everything and give the example to follow. ”Healing the broken world, the Tikkun Olam, is a Jewish mission. In that sense, the Dutch meaning of Kadosh is also very beautiful. The content factors of component 2 are universal. I assume that the obligations that are mentioned apply to all people around the world. Everyone probably agrees that stealing and cheating is wrong.

Is the emphasis on sacred in the sense of whole or is the emphasis on setting apart? Or could it be that it does not exclude the other? Can you also find ‘kadoshitty’ (setting it apart) within the frame of holiness (thinking from the whole)?

I find the answer in music. All content factors of music must be represented in a composition. By content factors I mean: melody, chords, counter lines (counterpoint), rhythm, play movement, form and tone color.In all the compositions of the great masters you can immediately point out how the melody lines run, what happens rhythmically and what form a piece has. Often one of the content factors stands out. For example, in a piece of music that can be danced, the melody will usually be measured. Of course, you do not want to stand still during the dance to listen to the melody. All content factors are in balance with each other and ensure that the composition as a whole is convincing.

For me as a composer it is very important that a work forms a whole. During composing, I check permanently whether the content factors are represented and related. In any case, it produces a ‘good’ piece that carries a certain form of uniformity because I adhere to rules and laws that apply to all composers. Still, I hope that my music differs from other composers. If all goes well, you will hear who made the piece. Even if you have composed something in the style of someone else, you can still hear that not one, but the other has composed the piece.How is that possible? How can you compose a whole, based on existing rules that is still different from other documents?Or: how is it possible that one baker makes very different tasting sufganot than the other,even if they use the same ingredients? The key word seems to me to be Neshomme (Hebrew Nefesh: living being). It is the inspiration that is needed to come to a unique piece. Everyone is unique because everyone has a unique and irreplaceable soul. In Genesis 2: 7 man becomes a living being because God gave him breath of life). Breath, soul and life seem to be connected to each other. In Kedoshim, however, it is not so much about the individual person, how they set themselves apart from the other person, but about how a group distinguishes itself from another group.

The Mishnah (book in which views on Biblical texts are included, part of the rabbinic literature) tells us that an owner of a vineyard is not allowed to place a bucket under the vine in order to catch the fallen fruit (peret). Vayikra 19:10 teaches us that the fruit that falls is destined for the poor. Placing a bucket under the vine would mean stealing from the poor. This approach to the concept of ownership and how ownership can lead to theft, but above all the responsibility that ownership brings to fellow human beings seems to me even more important than the assignment ‘you will not steal.’ The point I want to make with the above example is that how much the rules of holiness may be universal, its framing, the way the rules are interpreted, makes the distinction between one and the other people. Rabbi Norman Lamm writes in his book Derashot Ledorot: A Commentary for the Ages – ” sefer Torah is not sacred in and of itself, but only because of what we get from it and the attitude we take towards it.’’ I subscribe Lamm’s opinion that the Torah itself is only sacred when you know how to read and apply it in your own life. Everybody gets something different from the Torah. For one the Torah is a law book, for the other a history book and again for the other a music book.

The parasha K’doshim can also be read in many ways and how you read, understand and apply the text makes every person unique.

In addition to reading the Torah, thinking, fantasizing, interpreting and reading explanatory writings is indispensable to get a grip on the concept of holiness. During the writing of my drasha, in a fantasy I saw a laughing sun several times.It was a bit of a childish image of the sun and with some imagination you would be able to see a Magein David with tzitzit attached to it. In itself it is strange that I saw this. Tonight, just before holding this drasha I suddenly understood why I saw this image. To be holy, you as a Jew must fulfill mitzvot (commandments). In k’doshim we read that fulfilling mitzvot leads to holiness. The command ‘Be holy’ means: ‘Fulfill the Mitzvot.’ Yet, the sun shines and warms us already, man has already obtained heat, life, light and holiness from HaShem. You could therefore see the mitzvot as paying with your credit card. You get the product (holiness), the bank (HaShem) pays for it, after some time you will pay back HaShem with mitzvot (good deeds).

Shabbat Shalom!









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