Parshat Kedoshim: The Holiness of Inclusion

Elana Goldscheider is the founding director of the Elaine and Norm Brodsky Darkaynu Program

credit Rony Natan Elana Goldscheider 1In Parshat Kedoshim, we encounter a profound call to holiness, a divine directive urging us to emulate the sacred nature of God in our lives. Within this call lies a poignant reminder of our responsibility towards those with disabilities, teaching us that true holiness is manifested in how we treat the most vulnerable among us.

One of the key Pesukim in Parshat Kedoshim that underscores this message is Vayikra 19:14, which states, “You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” This verse not only prohibits overt acts of discrimination but also challenges us to cultivate empathy and compassion in our interactions with individuals who may have physical or cognitive impairments.

Rashi interprets the verse, “You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind,” by explaining that it is not merely a prohibition against physical actions. Rather, it serves as a broader ethical principle, teaching us not to take advantage of those who are vulnerable or unable to defend themselves. Rashi underscores the importance of empathy and compassion in our interactions with others, particularly with those who may have disabilities or face challenges in their lives.

The essence of holiness lies in our ability to recognize the inherent dignity and worth of every human being, regardless of their abilities or limitations. When we uphold the rights of individuals with disabilities to be treated with respect, we are embodying the divine attribute of compassion and fulfilling our mandate to be holy, as God is holy.

Moreover, Parshat Kedoshim teaches us that inclusion is not merely a moral imperative but a spiritual obligation. In Vayikra 21:16-23, the Torah delineates specific guidelines for the priesthood, stipulating that individuals with certain physical impairments are still permitted to serve in the sacred rites of the Temple. This serves as a profound reminder that disability does not diminish one’s capacity for spiritual fulfillment or participation in communal life.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel teaches us that true love for our neighbor entails not only emotional affection, but also active engagement and support. He asserts that our love for others should manifest in concrete actions aimed at promoting their well-being and inclusion.

When applied to individuals with disabilities, this commandment challenges us to confront societal barriers and advocate for inclusivity and accessibility. It calls upon us to ensure that individuals with disabilities are afforded equal opportunities and treated with the dignity and respect they deserve as fellow human beings created in the image of God.

As we reflect on the teachings of Parshat Kedoshim, we are reminded that true holiness is inclusive and embraces the diversity of human experience. We are called to create communities where individuals of all abilities are valued, included, and empowered to contribute their unique gifts to the collective tapestry of humanity.

In our pursuit of holiness, let us heed the call to champion the rights of individuals with disabilities, ensuring that they are not marginalized or excluded but welcomed as full members of society. Let us strive to create a world where everyone can flourish and where the sacred dignity inherent in every human being is recognized and celebrated.


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