Why Be Set-Apart?
Parsha Acharei Mot - Kedoshim: Wayyiqra/Leviticus 16:1 - 20:27
Kedusha is the Hebrew word translated as holiness or, better yet, set-apartness. When we think of the word ‘holy’ or ‘set-apart’, we tend to get the image of a perfect, pure object or person, separated from it's surroundings.
But that’s only part of the definition.
As we study this week’s Parsha (Acharei Mot/Kedoshim) and the entire book of Wayyiqra (Leviticus), we see that kedusha has an additional aspect that's not always present in our idea of set-apart.
The Purpose of Kedusha
In this week’s readings, we reach a turning point in Wayyiqra. The book can be divided into two parts: chapters 1-17 and chapters 18-27.
The first half is all about the Mishkan (Tabernacle) - the offerings made there, the priests serving there, and how one can and cannot enter.
The second half of Wayyiqra seems to have little to do with the Mishkan. It’s mostly directed toward the Yahudim and their daily life. This week, we learn a vast amount of laws dealing with everything from business ethics to charity to sexual immorality - a hodgepodge of laws.
Why such a shift in topics? From the purely set-apart Mishkan to everyday, normal stuff?
Through Wayyiqra, YAHUAH is teaching us the whole point of kedusha, set-apartness. When something is set-apart, it’s not set apart just for the sake of being set-apart.
The purpose of kedusha is to spread the Presence of Elohim out into the world.
Spreading the Presence
The Mishkan was a set-apart Dwelling Place for the Most High. There, the Presence of Elohim was strong, intense, and noticeably apparent to all who came near.
When a person came to the Set-Apart Place, bringing his offering to meet with YAHUAH, he would experience the Presence of Elohim at a very high level. His meeting with YAH would have such an impact on him, that when he left and returned to his normal, everyday life, everything would be different.
Everything in his life was impacted in a positive way and brought to a higher level because he brought with him the Presence of Elohim from the Set-Apart Place. What he experienced at the Mishkan ‘spilled over’ into his everyday life.
So, in this way, the Presence of YAHUAH - which was so strong and manifest in the Mishkan - was then carried out into surrounding areas.
That is is the point of kedusha - to set something apart and give it an "extra dose of YAH's Presence" so that it can affect everything around it in a positive way.
The Mishkan was a set-apart place that spread the Presence of YAHUAH to its surroundings.
The Shabbat is a set-apart time that spreads the Presence of YAHUAH into the other days. We live each day in anticipation of Shabbat, making those days more purposeful. Then, when Shabbat comes, we experience YAH to a higher degree and that will ‘spill over’ with us into the coming week.
Thus, the set-apartness of Shabbat spreads into the other days of the week.
In similar vein, Yisrael is the set-apart people who spread the Presence of Elohim to the world. He is with us, His people, so that wherever we go and with whomever we interact, His Presence will be there.
We are not set-apart just for the sake of being set-apart. Not just so we can say we are or show others that we are. Really, it’s not even to prove to YAH that we are.
We are set-apart so we can have an impact on those around us.
Through our actions, speech, and behavior, others come to know that YAHUAH is Elohim and that He is Set-Apart.
A True Witness
You know the old saying, “actions speak louder than words”?
I tell you the truth: we can witness and tell people all day long that YAHUAH is Elohim, but if our actions don’t line up, they won’t believe a word we say.
Our life - actions, speech, and behavior - is a witness.
In Wayy. 19:2, YAHUAH said “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Yisrael…”
Here, “congregation” is the Hebrew word adat. It comes from eydah, which means ‘witness.’
YAHUAH refers to Yisrael as a witness and then says:
"Be set-apart, for I יהוה your Elohim am set-apart."
Our set-apartness is a witness that YAHUAH is Elohim and that He is set-apart.
All the laws that follow this commandment tell us how to conduct ourselves in everyday life because how we live matters!
Tikkun Olam - Fixing the World
In all our striving to be set-apart, we have to remember the bigger picture. Yes, these laws will benefit us and give us life, and yes, YAH will bless our obedience.
But the bigger picture is to impact the world around us!
Not everyone is going to be chosen priest like Aharon, a leader like Moshe, a king like David, or a prophet like Shemuel.
But every single person of Yisrael has the responsibility to spread the Presence of Elohim throughout the world.
By being set-apart.
If we follow the laws YAH set for us, we’ll be set-apart, and when we’re truly set-apart, then we’re a light to the nations.
Our set-apartness spreads the Presence of Elohim throughout the world, and that is the whole point of kedusha - to change the world with the Presence of YAHUAH.
So that all the world will know that YAHUAH is Elohim and there is none else (Deb/Deut. 4:35).