What 'Holiness' Looks Like

When a religious person conducts himself no differently than the common, ordinary people around him, he makes God look common and ordinary too.

Faceless individual. (Image: Bigstock)

Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Acharei Mot-Kedoshim (אחרי מות/קדושים | After the death/Holy)
  • Torah: Leviticus 16:1-20:27
  • Haftarah: Ezekiel 22:1-19
  • Gospel: Matthew 15:10-20;

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Leviticus 16:1 | The Day of Atonement
    • Leviticus 17:1 | The Slaughtering of Animals
    • Leviticus 17:10 | Eating Blood Prohibited
    • Leviticus 18:1 | Sexual Relations
    • Leviticus 19:1 | Ritual and Moral Holiness
    • Leviticus 20:1 | Penalties for Violations of Holiness
  • Prophets
    • Eze 22:1 | The Bloody City

Portion Summary

Acharei Mot

The twenty-ninth reading from the Torah and sixth reading from Leviticus is named Acharei Mot (אחרי מות), two words that mean "after the death." The title comes from the first words of the first verse of the reading, which say, "Now the LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron" (Leviticus 16:1). Leviticus 16 describes the Tabernacle ceremony for the holy festival of the Day of Atonement. Leviticus 17 establishes general rules for sacrifice and sanctuary. Leviticus 18 lays down specific laws about permitted and forbidden sexual relationships.


The thirtieth reading from the Torah and seventh reading from Leviticus is named Kedoshim (קדושים), which mean "holy." The title comes from the words in Leviticus 19:2, which says, "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy." Leviticus 19 describes the holy community through a series of specific commandments. Leviticus 20 warns against the snares of sexual immorality and idolatry, mandating a death penalty for certain sins. Except in biblical leap years, Kedoshim is read on the same Sabbath as the previous reading, Acharei Mot.

What does a holy person look like? Do you picture a priest or a nun? Maybe a preacher? Perhaps you imagine a Chassidic Jew with a full beard, side locks and black hat. Leviticus 19-20 contains the Bible's description of what holiness looks like.

The passage begins with the words, "Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, 'You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy'" (Leviticus 19:2).One of the laws of holiness states, "You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another" (Leviticus 19:11).

Have you ever been ripped off by a religious person? It's not surprising when we are cheated by people of the world. But it is disconcerting when a professing Christian or an observant Jew deceives or financially abuses us. We expect more from the religious person than a secular person. We assume that a religious person will conduct his affairs in concert with his moral values. That makes the religious person different from the secular person. That's what being holy is all about.

The Torah says that when a religious person conducts himself without integrity, he profanes the name of God. The word profane is the opposite of the word holy. Holy means "set apart." Profane means "common and ordinary." When a religious person conducts himself no differently than the common, ordinary people around him, he makes God look common and ordinary too. He damages God's reputation. An unbeliever who steals, deceives, lies, perjures and swindles is unremarkable, but when a believer acts that way, he disgraces the faith and gives opportunity for unbelievers to say, "You see? He is just like us. I knew there was no substance to his God or his religion."

The sages understood the commandment, "You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him" (Leviticus 19:13) to be a prohibition against dishonest business transactions. As disciples of Yeshua obedient to God's Torah, we need to strive for scrupulous honesty, especially in matters of business.

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