Congregation Etz Hayim at Hollis Hills Bayside

The consolidated communities of Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center and Marathon Jewish Community Center

Shabbat Kedoshim 5776

This Shabbat, we’ll get a handful of Torah. On Lay-led Shabbat, we’re having a lunch and learn with five different teachers about Parshat Kedoshim, which is about as rich a weekly portion as one can find. Leviticus 19 is called the essence of the Torah, or the Torah in miniature. On Shabbat morning after services, you’ll have a chance to pick a table and learn with one of our volunteerdarshanim.
 
I’ll do my primary teaching on Friday evening. I’d like to focus on one critical verse in Kedoshim: “Do not deal basely with your countrymen. Do not profit by the blood of your fellow; I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:16). There seem to be two commandments here, neither of which is easily translated from the Hebrew. 
The first phrase in Hebrew is Lo telekh rakhil b’amekha. Rakhil, translated as “deal basely,” is actually related to the Hebrew word for “peddler.” It’s noteworthy that the older JPS translation (from 1917) renders it as “do not go up and down as a talebearer.” What could possibly be the connection between these two disparate translations?
 
As for the second phrase, the Torah says lo ta’amod ‘al dam rei-ekha. While the translation above alludes to profiting from someone else’s death, the old JPS translation says “neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor.” Here, too, the translations differ significantly. What do we do with these differences? And finally, what is the connetion between the two halves of the verse?
 
On Friday evening, we’ll hear Ibn Ezra’s interpretation, and decide which translation we prefer.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
 
Rabbi David Wise