Friday, May 06, 2016

Kedoshim 5631 First Ma'amar

How to Lead Holy Lives in a Physical World

Our parasha begins with a commandment to be holy.  דַּבֵּר אֶל־כָּל־עֲדַת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלהֶם קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי ה' אֱ-לֹהֵיכֶם/Speak to the entire community of the children of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy for I, God, your Lord, am holy.” (VaYikra 19:2)  The pasuk seems to be instructing us to emulate God.  Just as He is holy so too, must we be holy.  But how can we possibly be holy like God?

The pasuk itself gives us a clue.  The pasuk could have ended with, “כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי/for I am holy” and stop.  Why does it add “ה' אֱ-לֹהֵיכֶם /God, your Lord?”  The Midrash[1] on the first few words of the Ten Commandments, “אָנֹכִי ה' אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ/I am God, your Lord” (Shmos 20:2) explains that even though He is the Lord of all the nations, God dedicated Himself specifically to the nation of Israel.  Of course God gives life and existence to the entire Creation.  Still, He is more manifest in us.  So God makes a point of telling us that we can be holy specifically because not only is He holy; He is also our God.  The life force of every Jew, is actually a part of God, as it were.  By separating us from the nations and bringing us close to Him, God gave us the ability to emulate Him and become holy.  Chazal are teaching us that this pasuk is more than a mitzvah.  It is a promise.[2]    

What does being holy mean?  The Hebrew for holy – קָדוֹשׁ – connotes separated, a nuance that is lost in translation.[3]   In this sense God is holy since He is separate from everything.  Paradoxically, though, He fills the entire Creation.  This idea is found in the Midrash[4] on this week’s parsha explaining the pasuk in Tehillim (92:9), “וְאַתָּה מָרוֹם לְעוֹלָם ה'/You are always on high, God.”  The Midrash explains that God’s hand is always on top.  The word “לְעוֹלָם/always” also means “hidden” and “world.”  This Midrash is teaching us that God’s hand is hidden in this world.  He is separate and yet hidden within the universe giving life to it.  It follows that every action has a spiritual Godly force that gives it existence.  Because of our closeness to God, we, too, can become holy by connecting to the spiritual within our physical actions.

Since all Jewish souls are connected to God, they are perforce connected to each other as well.  In fact, Chazal tell us that all the souls of the nation of Israel together comprise one mega-soul called, “כְּנֶסֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל/the congregation of Israel.”[5]  This mega-soul is a powerful spiritual force. 

For this reason, the Torah makes a point of telling us that the mitzvah of “קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ/you shall be holy” was said to the entire community.  Chazal tell us that Moshe Rabeinu taught all the mitzvos to the entire nation.[6]  Why does the Torah single out this one?  According to what we have said, though, it is clear.  By instructing Moshe Rabbeinu to gather the entire nation together to hear this particular mitzvah, God is teaching us how to perform it.  When we cultivate a sense of identity with the nation of Israel, when we recognize that we are a part of the mega-soul of “כְּנֶסֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל/the congregation of Israel,” a part of God Himself, as it were, we are able to live in the physical world and yet connect to the spiritual.  We can connect to the spiritual power of our actions, revealing the hidden Godliness, the holiness in them, thus becoming holy ourselves.

[1]Shmos R. 29:4
[2]VaYikra R. 24:2; Zohar 3:81a
[3]For example, the Hebrew word for marriage – קִידוּשִׁין – has the same root as the word for holy because a married woman is separated from all men except one.  A nazarite is called holy because he must keep away from wine and things that would defile his pure spiritual state.
[4]VaYikra R. 24:2
[5]See Nefesh HaChaim 2:17 in Hagaha all the sources in Chazal.  We usually think of the soul as being in the body.  However, according to Chazal only a small part of the soul is in the body.  Most of a person’s soul extends from the body up through many spiritual realms to its source.  It is at the source that we are all connected in “כְּנֶסֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל/the congregation of Israel.”
[6]Eiruvin 54b

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