Repetition or Not? by Eitan Leff


Parashat Kedoshim begins with the ambiguous commandment of “Kedoshim Tihyu,” “Be Holy” (VaYikra 19:2), and spends the next Perek commanding us dozens of Mitzvot which help us become holy. The first two Mitzvot given are the obligations of fearing one’s parents and keeping Shabbat (19:3). Not only do these two Mitzvot appear to be random, but they appear to be repetitive, as they were already given at Har Sinai (Shemot 20:9, 20:12).

In addition to Mitzvot presented in Parashat Kedoshim which appear to be replicates of Mitzvot given at Har Sinai, there are Mitzvot given in this Parashah which could be easily derived from other Mitzvot. For example, in this week’s Parashah, we are commanded to refrain from speaking Lashon HaRa (VaYikra 19:16). This commandment could have been commanded to us by Chazal as a Toladah, or subcategory, of the prohibition of giving false testimony (Shemot 20:12).

Perhaps, we can suggest that the “repetition” of Mitzvot in this week’s Parashah is more than merely a repetition. If we look closely at the text of the commandments given at Har Sinai and the commandments given in this week’s Parashah, we see that those given in Parashat Kedoshim are more difficult to perform than those given at Har Sinai. At Har Sinai, we are commanded “Kabeid Et Avicha VeEt Imecha,” “Respect your father and your mother” (Shemot 20:11), and in Parashat Kedoshim, we are commanded “Ish Imo VeAviv Tira’u,” “Every man should fear his mother and his father” (VaYikra 19:3). The Gemara (Kiddushin 31b) explains that Kibbud Av VaEim involves actively doing things for one’s parents such as feeding them, and Mora Av VaEim involves not disrespecting one’s parents by doing things such as sitting in their designated seats. Anybody can perform Kibbud Av VaEim by forcing himself to do positive actions for his parents, but it is very difficult be in a constant mindset of being respectful to one’s parents.

Additionally, the Mitzvah of observing Shabbat that appears in this week’s Parashah appears to be more difficult than the same commandment given in the Aseret HaDiberot. At Har Sinai we are commanded “Lo Ta’aseh Chol Melachah,” “Do not do any work” (Shemot 20: 9), and in Parashat Kedoshim, we are commanded “Shabbetotai Tishmoru,” “Guard My Shabbat” (VaYikra 19:3). The commandment given at Har Sinai to avoid doing any Melachah can be performed by anybody, but the commandment of guarding Shabbat is a very difficult Mitzvah to perform as it is more than just a physical request.

Similarly, the commandment given in this week’s Parashah of not speaking Lashon HaRa is much more difficult than the commandment given at Har Sinai of not testifying falsely in court. When a person testifies before of a judge, he is aware of the significance of his testimony and the drastic consequences of lying. However, in a typical conversation between friends, it is very easy for one to forget to guard his words and avoid speaking Lashon HaRa.

We see that by the Mitzvot of Shabbat, Mora Av VaEim, and Lashon HaRa, we are given a relatively easy Mitzvah at Har Sinai and a relatively difficult Mitzvah in Parashat Kedoshim. We should learn from this that performing Mitzvot should be more than just an action. In doing a Mitzvah, we should achieve a mindset which will strengthen our connection to other people as well as to Hashem.

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