Sermon for Sisterhood Shabbat – Parshat K’doshim

Don’t be a slut, but also don’t be a prude. Don’t be so emotional, but don’t be cold-hearted. Prioritize your family over your career, but you must be on call for the office 24/7. Cover up to avoid unwanted attention, but don’t dress so frumpy. Speak up in the workplace, but don’t come across as demanding, bossy, or a know-it-all. You should show more self-respect and put on makeup, but why would you cover up your face – you should show your natural beauty.

We are given conflicting messages all the time by our society about who to be and how to act.  It can leave us feeling frustrated, angry, exasperated.  How can we be all of the things that our culture asks us to be, while also being true to ourselves?

This week, we read Parshat K’doshim from the Torah.  Parshat K’doshim is, both literally and figuratively, the center of the Torah.  If we were to, heaven forbid, fold the Torah in half, we would arrive at this week’s Torah portion, and we would read the words that I believe that the Torah wants us to hold at the center of our lives.  Leviticus 19:1 reads, “Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, Adonai, your God, am holy.”

This is it.  This is the center of the Torah.  Everything that precedes this sentence introduces this concept, and everything that follows it elucidates it.  And the words themselves – these words aren’t for the priests, the elders, the princes, or kings.  These words aren’t even limited to being for men or being for adults.  These words are for the ENTIRE Israelite community – young and old, male and female, wealthy and impoverished.  

The beauty of the commandment to be holy is in its cloudiness.  Holiness in Judaism usually means set apart for a sacred purpose.  But how can we ALL be set apart?  Isn’t that like saying, “I’m unique – just like everyone else?”  Well… yes.  Sort of.  I am set apart for a sacred purpose in my life.  It is my life’s work to figure out what that purpose is – how I can use my life to make the world a better and more sacred and beautiful place.  The gifts that I bring to contribute to the world are mine alone – they are set apart – holy for me.  Your gifts are what make you set apart and holy for a sacred purpose.

This week’s Torah portion invites us to seek and pursue what makes us like God.  In what ways can we be kind, forgiving, loving, and generous? How can we make the world more beautiful than the one we experience today?

Unlike the conflicting messages that our society tries to feed us – the Torah is quite clear.  You.  YOU are holy.  What does that mean?  It is your life’s work to find out.