Parashat Acharei Mot – Kedoshim 5772
Let’s dive right into trying to understand this concept of kedusha.
Here are the verses I quoted earlier this week:
Vayikra Chapter 11 (Parashat Shemini)
44 For I am the Lord your God, and you shall sanctify yourselves [hitkadishtem] and be holy [kedoshim], because I am holy [kadosh], and you shall not defile yourselves through any creeping creature that crawls on the ground.
45 For I am the Lord Who has brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God. Thus, you shall be holy [kedoshim], because I am holy [kadosh].
Vayikra Chapter 19 (beginning of Parashat Kedoshim)
2 Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy [kedoshim], for I, the Lord, your God, am holy [kadosh].
Vayikra Chapter 20 (end of Parashat Kedoshim)
25 And you shall distinguish between clean animals and unclean ones, and between unclean birds and clean ones; thus you shall not make yourselves disgusting through [unclean] animals and birds and any [creature] which crawls on the earth, that I have distinguished for you to render unclean.
26 And you shall be holy [kedoshim] to Me, for I, the Lord, am holy [kadosh], and I have distinguished you from the peoples, to be Mine.
Answering My Questions
1. In the verses quoted above, the kedusha of the Jewish people was linked to the fact that God is kadosh. What are we supposed to learn from the fact of God being kadosh?
Rashi says on verse 11:44:
44 For I am the Lord your God – Just as I am holy, for I am the Lord your God, so too, you shall make yourselves holy, [i.e.,] sanctify yourselves below [on earth] and be holy before Me, for I will make you holy above and in the world to come.
Part of Rashi’s message is that the God’s kedusha is meant to be a model for us.
God being a model for us is an idea that find in another context. When God revealed the 13 Attributes to Moshe, He is described as “merciful and gracious.” The Midrash learns from this, “Just as God is merciful, so should you be merciful. Just as God is gracious, so should you be gracious.”
2. Can any one become kadosh?
The simple answer is, “Yes!” Verse 19:2 begins, “Speak to the entire congregation …”
All of the Jews, men and women, boys and girls, were present when Moshe delivered this important message. It is meant to be a goal for every Jew. That means that everyone can achieve it, at least on some level.
Not only that, but Rabbi Sorotzkin his commentary Oznaim LaTorah, understood the phrase “for I, the Lord, your God, am holy” as a promise of Divine help to achieve that kedusha.
3. Does a person become kadosh by DOING or by NOT DOING?
Both Rashi and Ramban on verse 19:2 take the approach that a person becomes kadosh by refraining from certain acts.
Rashi explains the verse to mean refraining from the sexual acts outlined in Chapter 18. He teaches that a limitation on permitted sexual relations is always linked with kedusha.
Ramban takes a broader view.
In a famous passage, Ramban states that a person could excessively indulge in acts permitted by the Torah and “become a sorid person within the permissible realm of the Torah.”
Therefore, a person must “practice moderation even in matters which are permitted.” [Quotations from Rabbi Chavel’s translation of Ramban’s commentary.]
They are clearly on the DON’T side of the equation.
However, Rabbi Sorotzkin understands that kedusha is achieved by striving to observe the entire Torah. That would also include the positive commandments. So we could say that part of becoming kadosh is based on DOING the proper actions.
4. For a person who wants to increase their level of kedusha, what’s the best way to proceed?
I’ll admit that this was a bold question. I don’t claim to know the absolute best way. But I do have a suggestion.
The Gemara (Shabbat 31a) tells us the questions a person will be asked after death. Here are the first four:
a. Did you conduct business with integrity?
b. Did you fix times for learning Torah?
c. Did you engage in procreation?
d. Did you hope for salvation?
This is like being told what will be on the final exam at the beginning of the semester. Doesn’t it make sense to prepare for that exam early on?
I suggest that if you do all of these things, you will grow in your level of kedusha.
By conducting business with integrity you will increase your bitachon (faith) in God.
By learning Torah regularly (a session each day and each night) you will develop a Torah based approach to the situations you face each day.
The only proper Jewish context to engage in procreation is marriage. Marriage is the best laboratory for you to develop your middot (character traits).
To hope for salvation means to look forward to God’s ultimate redemption of the entire world. With this mindset, you realize that there are some problems that you cannot solve.
Therefore, you realize that your task is to calmly accept. Of course, it also requires wisdom to know which problems should be accepted and which problems you must work on with all of your strength. 🙂
Much more could be said on each of these four ideas, but I’ll save that for another time.
Please share your suggested answers in the comments.
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Picture credit Flickr.