Leviticus 19:1-37

This unit begins with an exhortation to “be holy”. The subsequent verses outline how to achieve that holiness. Most of the laws contained in this chapter pertain to man’s interaction with his fellow, but several are also ritual. Examples of the former include required portions to charity, honest business dealings and treating our neighbors as we wish to be treated. Examples of the latter include keeping the Sabbath, being meticulous in the laws of sacrifices and not worshiping idols.


Judaism’s focus on social law is part of what makes it unique. The Israel Bible cites a speech given by David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, four years before the founding of the State. Speaking at a conference for youth groups in Haifa in 1944, he said, This people gave the world great and eternal moral truths and commandments…of the dignity and infinite worth of the individual (because every man is created in the divine image), of social justice, universal peace, and love — ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself’…”


Among the various laws is verse 23, which states, “And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food…” As the Israel Bible points out, planting trees fulfils the commandment in Numbers 33:53, “You shall possess the land and you shall settle it.” From 1901 to 2014, inspired by this verse, Jews hand-planted over 240 million trees in Israel. In fact, Israel is one of the only countries in the world that ended the twentieth century with more trees than it began!


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think the Torah intersperses social law with ritual law in this chapter?

Comments ( 16 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • The word, "holy", means "separated unto Elohim". This portion succinctly shows what is holy and what is not (mostly not). Another word for "holy" is "sanctification". To be "holy unto Elohim" means to unequivocally separate one's self from everything that is unholy and profane. Elohim says, "be holy as I am holy". This is what "living" Torah says.

    • For one to prove they are "holy unto Elohim", they must treat their neighbor with the same level of respect they would expect for themselves. For one to treat others with disrespect and dishonor would be to live a lie before their Elohim, and conclusively prove the DO NOT love Elohim.

  • I think that the word holy represents : "set apart" sometimes even "separate" (or is this a consequence of being set apart ?) HaShem set our people apart from other peoples. That's reason for jealousy and reason for being aware of the standard HaShem requires of our people. These standards ask of us often "to act differently " because we want to follow His Rules and not the rules of "the world" . Our Rules come from Moshe who got them from The Eternal One. These rules needed to be explained by Moshe and after him by the Sages. It is the oral law. HaShem showed us in His Word that, by the mixing of rules, all rules are coming from Him and moreover, that there is no distinction between one or the other. All rules have the same base His Words. "Shma Israel…."

    • You make some good points, However, I must take issue with you when you refer to the "oral law", or Talmud. Since it has been codified, it's no longer "oral". It has been elevated by the sages to the level of "divine inspiration". Moshe tells us not to "add to or detract from" what is written in Torah. For the most part, this admonition describes the oral law.
      Torah was given by Elohim directly to Moshe and stands alone unto itself and DOES NOT need the explanation of the sages after him. There may be no distinction between the categories within Torah. However, there is a huge distinction between Moshe and the "oral law". "Shma Israel" applies ONLY to Torah of Moshe, not the "oral law". I "hear and obey" only Moshe.

  • Thank you all. In answering the question, I think the Torah mixes ritual law with social law in this chapter because the chapter covers instructions in a reminder form; most of these instructions had been given earlier so these were more like reminders in a summary form hence the mix of ritual and social laws.

    I think though that this is a tough question. I wish the person that asked it will eventually give the answer they were looking for.

  • "Why do you think the Torah intersperses social law with ritual law in this chapter?"
    After carefully considering all of the laws and instructions that are given to us in chap. 19, I fail to understand the distinction that you are making between "social law" and "ritual law".
    Usually when I find people trying to sort out the Torah using these kinds of labels, it's because they're trying to say that we have to follow some laws, but not others. While I clearly understand that the laws pertaining to the Temple and sacrifices can no longer be carried out in the absence of the Temple and the present day non-functioning of the Levitical priesthood, and that there are other laws that are specific only to the Land, I find it to be a dangerous practice to simply "discard" laws that at first glance don't fit our current lifestyle or situations.
    Torah has a plain text (p'shat) level understanding, but the sages have always taught that there are deeper lessons to be learned in every word that is given to us. We have to be very careful when we're "sorting" through the "laws, precepts, and commandments" to give each one due consideration and make sure we're availing ourselves of the full intention contained therein.
    Baruch Hashem.

    • Great comments. I agree with you. There is no distinction between the two categories. As Moshe said, Torah is one law for ALL people. The items discussed within Torah covers many subjects, but is still "one law"–the rules of Elohim's house, if you will. It is His desire to dwell (tabernacle) within our hearts and be our Elohim. The same rules that pertain to a physical Temple or Tabernacle also apply to the spiritual tabernacle within us. Thus, the whole of Torah still applies in our lives today, absence of the physical Temple not withstanding.

  • If only humanity, whatever age it is , that is era of history, it appears humanity seems to have gone astray, yet, HIs law and wisdom abounds to bring humanity back to………………….. Shalom………

  • One of the most important lessons I've been able to move forward in this Torah cycle is in regard to being holy. There is nothing that we can DO to make ourselves holy. This understanding came to me during the building of the tabernacle. When they built the tabernacle, it didn't become "holy" until Elohim came and filled the Holy of Holies with HIS presence.
    We can only be holy when HE indwells within us. However, it is very easy for us to profane ourselves and the Torah is the foundation of the instructions we need to follow to keep from doing so. Elohim will not be a part of our lives if we have profaned ourselves as HE will not mix HIS holiness with our profanity.
    There are many ways that we can profane ourselves whether we profane our bodies or do harm to the people around us. All of the Torah is good for instruction and we need to consider every part of HIS laws and precepts.
    Baruch Hashem.

    • You are right, the work comes from and through Hashem. If it is of our own doing it will bring pride, there cannot be Holiness where there is pride.

    • Thanks SueJean and Phyllis, very true indeed! Baruk Hashem.

  • Sheila

    God’s people must imitate Him in holiness by practicing and living a lifestyle that reflects His Holy nature, so He has set out in black and white how this is to be done. To love the Lord and esteem your neighbour as yourself fulfills the the commandments which I know need to be practiced in my life on a daily basis.

  • Ken

    fyi regarding trees – personal experiences
    1) I was privileged to plant two trees in November 2014 in the Arava at Biblical Tamar Park. A type of tree for the low desert.
    2) in 2013 our family was honored by a Jewish family who planted a tree at Quarry Park in Karmiel, Israel for our support of Israel. The certificate references Leviticus 19:23. I hope to visit this park and also see my friends.

    • We were able to 'buy' a tree too, all the way from new Zealand, not able to plant it though, for you that must have been a wonderful experience, one you will never forget, and we will always know that we have a footprint in Israel [giving us utter joy!]

      Re your question – Why do you think the Torah intersperses social law with ritual law in this chapter? I had written something else, but re-reading your question, might it be that ritual is good, but can become harsh, and the looking outside our daily rituals, to the needs of others keeps us grounded, unselfish – humble – grateful for all God has given us. Daily rituals are important in our day to day lives, but without mercy or grace, ritual becomes hard and unyielding, it can bring condemnation.

  • Diana Brown

    Because all of God’s Instructions are good for life and all creation. Torah reminds us there is One Above who searches the hearts and knows all things. We will answer if we take a bribe from the rich or disallow the poor a fair trial. We must be careful not to pity people to the point that they aren’t productive anymore. God made a plan for everyone to sit under their own fig tree with nothing missing, nothing lacking and nothing broken! Bless His Holy Name! No one should be stifled. Everyone’s potential should be unleashed when humanity operates by Torah. One day, this will happen according to Zechariah and Isaiah. Good news we can count on! His Words always come to pass.

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