The Torah portions of Acharei and Kedoshim are uniquely related in terms of content. This is mirrored by the fact that in most years the two are read together.

Acharei begins by describing the service of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies during Yom Kippur — the coming together of the most sacred aspects of space (the Holy of Holies), the holiest moment in time (Yom Kippur), and the holiest person (the High Priest).

This holiness is also paramount in the portion of Kedoshim, beginning as it does with the verse,1 “You shall be holy, for I am holy,” and stating near the conclusion:2 “You shall be holy unto Me, for I, the L-rd, am holy.”

Moreover, the name of the portion itself, Kedoshim, means holy — separate from the mundane.

Indeed, a Jew’s sanctity can be so lofty that it bears some comparison with G‑d’s, as the verse states: “You shall… be holy, for I… am holy.”

But how is it possible for corporeal man to reach such heights? The verse addresses itself to this question when it states “for I, the L-rd your G‑d, am holy.” Since G‑d is holy, each and every Jew can and must be holy as well, for all Jews “are truly part of G‑d above.”3

The measure of sanctity which each and every Jew is capable of achieving may best be appreciated when one realizes that the sanctity we are told to aspire to in Kedoshim follows that previously achieved in Acharei. In that portion, the passing of Nadav and Avihu is described as the result of their souls’ extreme longing for G‑d. So great was their love that their bodies could no longer contain their souls, which literally expired.

The portion of Kedoshim informs every Jew that he is capable of even greater heights. For the pursuit of holiness is never-ending, one level always following another, the reason being that holiness emanates from G‑d, who is truly infinite — “for I am holy.”

Herein lies a lesson for each and every Jew: Even a Jew who has achieved a great measure of sanctity may not rest on his laurels; he must constantly strive to attain even greater holiness. Moreover, he must progress boldly, so that each elevation is infinitely higher than the preceding one.

The portions of Acharei and Kedoshim are generally read on the Sabbaths between Passover and Shavuos, i.e., during the days that are bound up with the Exodus, the receiving of the Torah on Shavuos being the culmination of that Exodus. What connection is there between these Torah portions and the Exodus?

According to the above, the connection is readily discernible: The Exodus was a leaving of physical and spiritual servitude in favor of physical and spiritual freedom. This involves a radical elevation. Man’s quest for holiness, expressed in these Torah portions, also entails this quest for radical elevation.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. 12, pp. 91-94.