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Relationships and commandments

04/26/2018 03:42:05 PM


Student Rabbi Phil Bressler

A practical, if not necessarily accurate, distinction between different types of mitzvot (commandments) is that some govern relationships bein adam l'havero (between human beings) while others apply only bein adam l'akom (between human beings and God).
The reality, however, is that every commanded or prohibited act affects our relationship with God because an integral part of the covenant that God has made with us is that we must treat other people with dignity and respect.
Consider Leviticus 19 from Parashat Kedoshim this week. This chapter presents laws from every sphere on equal footing with one another. Some seem to bear only on the Divine/human relationship, such as prohibitions on idolatry, improper sacrifice and divination.
Yet others direct us to permit the poor to gather the gleanings of our fields, engage in fair business practices, show deference to our elders. Each paragraph ends with the repeated refrain “I am the Lord,” and the stated rationale for them all is, “You shall be holy, for I, the lord your God, am holy.” (v. 2) Clearly, the Torah perceives no meaningful distinction in terms of the relative importance of these mitzvot because proper service of God requires us to observe all of them.

Wed, November 13 2019 15 Cheshvan 5780