One of the most famous verses of the Torah appears in Parashat Kedoshim: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). This lofty principle obligates us to unconditionally treat all people as our equals.
Most of the parshiyot of the Torah were given to Moses, who later taught them to the elders, who in turn shared them with the rest of the nation. Kedoshim is an exception, as Moses addressed the entire congregation directly. Students know to expect a particularly important message when a general school assembly is called, while less important information or instructions can be passed on in the classroom.
When you read the various mitzvot in Kedoshim, you can fully appreciate that it required a general assembly. The parashah deals with every aspect of Jewish life inside the private home, in the public sphere or at the sacred space of the Temple. It also describes the full scope of Jewish community life, including situations in which we are required to deal with people who differ from us in status, socio-economic situation or age. In order to build a community, it is necessary to treat every individual as though we are dealing with our own needs or those of a close relative. This message is so fundamental and important that the entire congregation needed to hear it together.
Recently, a group of TanenbaumCHAT students, including myself, went to Israel to participate in the Jerusalem Marathon in support of Shalva, an organization that supports individuals with special needs and their families. As a group, we raised more than $125,000, and though we may not have had any personal connection with the Shalva families, it was the message of Kedoshim that served as our motivation.
Kedoshim teaches that we, the Jewish people, must feel the connections among all of us and treat all our fellow people as our own families and support them to the best of our ability when they are in need.