Kedoshim, K’doshim, or Qedoshim (קדושים — Hebrew for "holy ones,” the 14th word, and the first distinctive word, in the parshah) is the 30th weekly Torah portion (parshah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the seventh in the book of Leviticus. It constitutes Leviticus 19:1–20:27. Jews in the Diaspora generally read it in late April or May.
The lunisolar Hebrew calendar contains up to 54 weeks, the exact number varying between leap years and regular years. In years with 54 weeks (for example, 2008, 2011, and 2014), parshah Kedoshim is read separately on the 30th Sabbath after Simchat Torah. In years with fewer than 54 weeks (for example, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2015), parshah Kedoshim is combined with the previous parshah, Acharei, to help achieve the needed number of weekly readings.
Some Conservative congregations substitute readings from Leviticus 19 for the traditional reading of Leviticus 18 in the Yom Kippur Minchah service. (See Mahzor for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Edited by Jules Harlow. United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. ISBN 0874411483.) And in the standard Reform prayerbook for the High Holidays (machzor), Leviticus 19:1–4, 9–18, and 32–37 are the Torah readings for the afternoon Yom Kippur service. (Gates of Repentance: The New Union Prayerbook for the Days of Awe. Edited by Chaim Stern, 452–55. New York: Central Conference of American Rabbis, Revised ed. 1996. ISBN 0-88123-069-3.)
Kodashim is also the name of the fifth order in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Talmud. The term "kedoshim" is sometimes also used to refer to the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, whom some call "kedoshim" because they fulfilled the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem.
God told Moses to tell the Israelites to be holy, for God is holy. (Lev. 19:1–2.) God’s instruction, considered by scholars to be part of the Holiness Code, then enumerates how people can be holy. God instructed the Israelites:
God then told Moses to instruct the Israelites of the following penalties for transgressions.
The following were to be put to death:
The following were to be cut off from their people:
The following were to die childless:
God then enjoined the Israelites faithfully to observe all God’s laws, lest the Promised Land spew them out. (Lev. 20:22.) For it was because the land’s former inhabitants did all these things that God dispossessed them. (Lev. 20:23.) God designated the Israelites as holy to God, for God is holy, and God had set the Israelites apart from other peoples to be God’s. (Lev. 20:26.)
Rabbi Judah ben Pazzi deduced from the juxtaposition of the sexual prohibitions of Leviticus 18 and the exhortation to holiness in Leviticus 19:2 that those who fence themselves against sexual immorality are called holy, and Rabbi Joshua ben Levi taught that wherever one finds a fence against sexual immorality, one will also find sanctity. (Leviticus Rabbah 24:6.)
Rabbi Abin likened the two exhortations to holiness in Leviticus 19:1–2 and 20:7 to the case of a king who rewarded his drunkard watchmen twice as much as his sober watchmen. Similarly, God twice exhorted the Israelites to holiness, because the Evil Inclination sways people like drunkards, whereas the Evil Inclination does not exist among celestial beings. Similarly, Rabbi Abin likened the two exhortations to holiness to the case of the citizens who made three crowns for the king, and the king placed one on his own head and two on the heads of his sons. Similarly, every day the celestial beings crown God with three sanctities, calling him, in the words of Isaiah 6:3, “Holy, holy, holy.” God then places one crown of holiness on God’s own head and two crowns of holiness on the head of Israel. (Leviticus Rabbah 24:8.)
Rabbi Hiyya taught that the section beginning at Leviticus 19:1 was spoken in the presence of the whole Israelite people, because it includes most of the essential principles of the Torah. And Rabbi Levi said it was because it includes each of the Ten Commandments, noting that: (1) Exodus 20:2 says, “I am the Lord your God,” and Leviticus 19:3 says, “I am the Lord your God”; (2) Exodus 20:2–3 says, “You shall have no other gods,” and Leviticus 19:4 says, “Nor make to yourselves molten gods”; (3) Exodus 20:6 (20:7 in NJPS) says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain,” and Leviticus 19:12 says, “And you shall not swear by My name falsely”; (4) Exodus 20:7 (20:8 in NJPS) says, “Remember the Sabbath day,” and Leviticus 19:3 says, “And you shall keep My Sabbaths”; (5) Exodus 20:11 (20:12 in NJPS) says, “Honor your father and your mother,” and Leviticus 19:3 says, “You shall fear every man his mother, and his father”; (6) Exodus 20:12 (20:13 in NJPS) says, “You shall not murder,” and Leviticus 19:16 says, “Neither shall you stand idly by the blood of your neighbor”; (7) Exodus 20:12 (20:13 in NJPS) says, “You shall not commit adultery,” and Leviticus 20:10 says, “Both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death; (8) Exodus 20:12 (20:13 in NJPS) says, “You shall not steal,” and Leviticus 19:11 says, “You shall not steal”; (9) Exodus 20:12 (20:13 in NJPS) says, “You shall not bear false witness,” and Leviticus 19:16 says, “You shall not go up and down as a talebearer”; and (10) Exodus 20:13 (20:14 in NJPS) says, “You shall not covet . . . anything that is your neighbor's,” and Leviticus 19:18 says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus Rabbah 24:5.)
A Baraita cited the words of Leviticus 19:3, “You shall fear every man his mother and his father, and you shall keep My Sabbaths,” to teach that one’s duty to honor one’s parent does not supersede one’s duty to keep the Sabbath. (Babylonian Talmud Yevamot 5b.)
A midrash noted that everywhere else, Scripture mentions a father's honor before the mother's honor. (E.g., Exodus 20:11 (20:12 in NJSP), Deuteronomy 5:15 (5:16 in NJPS), 27:16) But Leviticus 19:3 mentions the mother first to teach that one should honor both parents equally. (Genesis Rabbah 1:15.)
Tractate Peah in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Jerusalem Talmud interpreted the laws of the harvest of the corners of fields in Leviticus 19:9–10. (Mishnah Peah 1:1–8:9; Tosefta Peah 1:1–4:21; Jerusalem Talmud Peah 1a–73b.)
Tractates Nedarim and Shevuot in the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud, and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws of vows in Exodus 20:7, Leviticus 5:1–10 and 19:12, Numbers 30:2–17, and Deuteronomy 23:24. (Mishnah Nedarim 1:1–11:11; Tosefta Nedarim 1:1–7:8; Jerusalem Talmud Nedarim 1a–; Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 2a–91b; Mishnah Shevuot 1:1–8:6; Tosefta Shevuot 1:1–6:7; Jerusalem Talmud Shevuot 1a–; Babylonian Talmud Shevuot 2a–49b.)
In a Baraita, the Rabbis reasoned that had Leviticus 19:17 said simply, “You shall not hate your brother,” one might have believed that one should simply not smite, slap, or curse him; therefore Leviticus 19:17 states “in your heart” to cover intentions as well as actions. Scripture speaks of hatred in the heart. (Babylonian Talmud Arakhin 16b.)
In a Baraita, the Rabbis deduced from the command in Leviticus 19:17 that “you shall surely rebuke your neighbor” that one is obliged to reprove a neighbor whom one observes doing something wrong. And they deduced from the emphatic words “you shall surely rebuke” that if one has rebuked one’s neighbor and the neighbor does not accept the rebuke, then one must rebuke the neighbor again. But the Rabbis deduced that Leviticus 19:17 continues to say “you shall not bear sin because of him” to teach that one should not rebuke a neighbor to the neighbor’s embarrassment. (Babylonian Talmud Arakhin 16b.)
Rabbi Tarfon wondered whether anyone in his generation could accept reproof, for if one told another, “Remove the mote from between your eyes,” the other would answer, “Remove the beam from between your eyes!” Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah wondered whether anyone in his generation knew how to reprove. Rabbi Johanan ben Nuri said that he would often complain about Akiba to Rabban Gamaliel Beribbi, causing Akiba to be punished as a result, but Akiba all the more showered love upon Rabbi Johanan ben Nuri, bearing out what Proverbs 9:8 says: “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” (Babylonian Talmud Arakhin 16b.)
Rabbi Judah the son of Rabbi Simeon ben Pazzi asked his father whether it was preferable to reprove honestly or to forgo reproof out of false modesty. Rabbi Simeon answered that restraint out of true modesty is better still, for a Master said modesty is greatest of all. Thus false modesty is also preferable, he reasoned, for Rav Judah said in the name of Rav that one should engage in Torah study and good deeds, even if not for their own sake, because through doing good for an ulterior motive one will come to do good for its own sake. To illustrate honest reproof and forbearance out of false modesty, the Gemara told how Rav Huna and Hiyya bar Rav were sitting before Samuel, when Hiyya bar Rav complained about how Rav Huna was bothering him. Rav Huna undertook not to bother Hiyya bar Rav anymore. After Hiyya bar Rav left, Rav Huna told Samuel how Hiyya bar Rav had done this and that wrong thing. So Samuel asked Rav Huna why he had not told Hiyya bar Rav to his face. Rav Huna replied that he did not want to put the son of Rav to shame (and thus chose insincere forbearance over honest rebuke). (Babylonian Talmud Arakhin 16b.)
The Gemara discussed how far one should reprove another. Rav said that one should reprove until the one reproved strikes the reprover. Samuel said that one should reprove until the one reproved curses the reprover. Rabbi Johanan said that one should reprove only until the one reproved rebukes the reprover. The Gemara noted a similar dispute among Tannaim. Rabbi Eliezer said until the one reproved strikes the reprover. Rabbi Joshua said until the one reproved curses the reprove. Ben Azzai said until the one reproved rebukes the reprover. Rav Nahman bar Isaac said that all three cited 1Samuel 20:30 to support their positions. 1Samuel 20:30 says: “Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan and he said to him: ‘You son of perverse rebellion, do not I know that you have chosen the son of Jesse (David) to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother's nakedness?’” And shortly thereafter, 1Samuel 20:33 says: “And Saul cast his spear at him to smite him.” Rabbi Eliezer said “until the one reproved strikes” because 1Samuel 20:33 says “to smite him.” Rabbi Joshua said “until the one reproved curses” because 1Samuel 20:33 says: “to your own shame and to the shame of your mother's nakedness.” Ben Azzai said “until the one reproved rebukes” because 1Samuel 20:30 says: “Then Saul's anger was kindled.” The Gemara asked how Ben Azzai, who said “until the one reproved rebukes,” explained how 1Samuel 20:33 also mentions beating and cursing. The Gemara reasoned that Jonathan risked his life even further (and rebuked even more than required) because of his great love of David. (Babylonian Talmud Arakhin 16b.)
But Rabbi Il'a said in the name of Rabbi Eleazar son of Rabbi Simeon that just as one is obliged to say words of reproof that will be accepted, so one is obliged not to say words of reproof that will not be accepted. Rabbi Abba said that it is a duty to forgo reproof that will not be accepted, as Proverbs 9:8 says: “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” (Babylonian Talmud Yevamot 65b.)
Once a gentile came before Shammai and said, “I will convert to Judaism, on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” Shammai pushed him away with a builder's ruler. When the gentile repeated his challenge before Hillel, Hillel said to him (paraphrasing Leviticus 19:18), “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah, and the rest is the explanation -- go and learn it.” (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 31a.)
Rav Nahman said in the name of Rabbah bar Abbuha that Leviticus 19:18 requires that even when executing a person, one must choose for the condemned an easy death. (Babylonian Talmud Ketubot 37b, Sanhedrin 45a.)
And other Rabbis counseled that Leviticus 19:18 prohibits taking actions that would make one’s spouse unattractive. Thus Rav Judah said in the name of Rav that Leviticus 19:18 requires a man not to become engaged to a woman before he sees her, lest he subsequently see something in her that might make her repulsive to him. (Babylonian Talmud Kiddushin 41a.) Similarly, Rav Hisda taught that Leviticus 19:18 prohibited one from engaging in marital relations during the daytime, and Abaye explained that this was because one might observe something that should make one’s spouse repulsive. (Babylonian Talmud Niddah 17a.)
Tractate Kilayim in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Jerusalem Talmud interpreted the laws of mixing plants, cloth, and animals in Leviticus 19:19. (Mishnah Kilayim 1:1–9:10; Tosefta Kilayim 1:1–5:27; Jerusalem Talmud Kilayim 1a–.)
Leviticus 18:4 calls on the Israelites to obey God’s “statutes” (hukim) and “ordinances” (mishpatim). The Rabbis in a Baraita taught that the “ordinances” (mishpatim) were commandments that logic would have dictated that we follow even had Scripture not commanded them, like the laws concerning idolatry, adultery, bloodshed, robbery, and blasphemy. And “statutes” (hukim) were commandments that the Adversary challenges us to violate as beyond reason, like those relating to shaatnez (in Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:11), halizah (in Deuteronomy 25:5–10), purification of the person with tzaraat (in Leviticus 14), and the scapegoat (in Leviticus 16). So that people do not think these “ordinances” (mishpatim) to be empty acts, in Leviticus 18:4, God says, “I am the Lord,” indicating that the Lord made these statutes, and we have no right to question them. (Babylonian Talmud Yoma 67b.) Similarly, Rabbi Joshua of Siknin taught in the name of Rabbi Levi that the Evil Inclination criticizes four laws as without logical basis, and Scripture uses the expression “statute” (chuk) in connection with each: the laws of (1) a brother’s wife (in Deuteronomy 25:5–10), (2) mingled kinds (in Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:11), (3) the scapegoat (in Leviticus 16), and (4) the red cow (in Numbers 19). (Numbers Rabbah 19:5.)
Tractate Orlah in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Jerusalem Talmud interpreted the laws of the prohibition in Leviticus 19:23–25 against using the fruits of a tree in its first three years. (Mishnah Orlah 1:1–3:9; Tosefta Orlah 1:1–8; Jerusalem Talmud Orlah 1a–42a.)
Judah ben Padiah noted Adam’s frailty, for he could not remain loyal even for a single hour to God’s charge that he not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, yet in accordance with Leviticus 19:23, Adam’s descendants the Israelites waited three years for the fruits of a tree. (Genesis Rabbah 21:7.)
The Mishnah asked about the command of Leviticus 20:15–16 that the animal be killed: If the person had sinned, in what way did the animal sin? The Mishnah concluded that Scripture ordered it killed because it enticed the person to sin. Alternatively, the Mishnah explained that the animal was killed so that it should not pass through the streets provoking people to say, “This is the animal on account of which so and so was stoned.” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 7:4; Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 54a.)
The Gemara reported a number of Rabbis’ reports of how the Land of Israel did indeed flow with “milk and honey,” as described in Exodus 3:8 and 17, 13:5, and 33:3, Leviticus 20:24, Numbers 13:27 and 14:8, and Deuteronomy 6:3, 11:9, 26:9 and 15, 27:3, and 31:20. Once when Rami bar Ezekiel visited Bnei Brak, he saw goats grazing under fig trees while honey was flowing from the figs, and milk dripped from the goats mingling with the fig honey, causing him to remark that it was indeed a land flowing with milk and honey. Rabbi Jacob ben Dostai said that it is about three miles from Lod to Ono, and once he rose up early in the morning and waded all that way up to his ankles in fig honey. Resh Lakish said that he saw the flow of the milk and honey of Sepphoris extend over an area of sixteen miles by sixteen miles. Rabbah bar Bar Hana said that he saw the flow of the milk and honey in all the Land of Israel and the total area was equal to an area of twenty-two parasangs by six parasangs. (Babylonian Talmud Ketubot 111b–12a.)
(Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, 3:3–163. Jerusalem: Feldheim Pub., 1984. ISBN 0-87306-297-3.)
The haftarah for the parshah is:
When parshah Kedoshim is combined with parshah Acharei (as it is in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2015), the haftarah is still the haftarah for parshah Kedoshim.
God’s characteristic of holiness in Leviticus 19:2 is reflected in Isaiah 6:2–3 and in turn in the Kedushah section of the Amidah prayer in each of the three prayer services. (Reuven Hammer. Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, 4. New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 2003. ISBN 0916219208.)
The parshah has parallels or is discussed in these sources: