Monday, April 23, 2007

Kedoshim 5631 First Ma'amar

This week we read two parshas. The Sfas Emes discusses the beginning of the second parsha. “דבר אל כל בני ישראל ואמרת אליהם קדֹשים תהיו כי קדוש אני ה' א-לֹהיכם/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.” Chazal say that this pasuk is teaching 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 said, “כי קדוש אני/for I am holy” and stop. Why does it add “ה' א-לֹהיכם/God, your Lord?” The Midrash on the first few words of the ten commandments, “אנֹכי ה' א-לֹהיך/I am God, your Lord” 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. Chazal tell us that our souls, the life force of every Jew, are actually a part of God. It follows that since God is holy, we, too, can be holy. By separating us from the nations and bringing us close to Him, God gave us the ability to emulate Him and become holy. Chazal tell us that this pasuk is more than a mitzvah. It is a promise.

What does being holy mean? “קדוש/Holy” connotes separated. (For example, the Hebrew word for marriage – קידושין – 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.) 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 on this week’s parsha explaining the pasuk in Tehillim, “ואתה מרום לעולם ה'/You are always on high, God.” The Midrash explains that God’s hand is always on top. The word “לעולם/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, “כנסת ישראל/the congregation of Israel.” (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 “כנסת ישראל/the congregation of Israel.”) This mega-soul is a highly powerful spiritual force.

For this reason the Torah makes a point of telling us that the mitzvah of “קדושים תהיו/you shall be holy” was said to the entire community. Chazal tell us that Moshe Rabeinu taught all the mitzvos to the entire nation. Why does the Torah single out this one? According to what we have said, though, it is clear. By instructing Moshe Rabeinu 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 “כנסת ישראל/the congregation of Israel,” a part of God Himself, 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.

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