Parshas Kedoshim: The Mudane is Holy

דבר אל־כל־עדת בני־ישראל ואמרת אלהם קדשים תהיו כי קדוש אני ה אלקיכם

Speak to the whole community of Bnei Yisroel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, Hashem your G-d, am holy.

In the Havdala we say,”המבדיל בין קודש לחול... בין ישראל לעמים”. There is a major difference in ideology between the way a Yid approaches holiness and lehavdil a Goy. The Goy looks at anything physical in this world as an obstacle. If the quest is for holiness, than physical cannot have a part. The greatest example of this is the concept by goyim of their priests not getting married.

For Klal Yisroel, the heiliger kinder of HaKadosh Boruch Hu, the concept of kedusha is completely different. The tachlis of this world is to utilize that which we are given in this world and to elevate it. The gemara in Yevamos (62,b) tells us אמר רבי תנחום אמר רבי חנילאי: כל אדם שאין לו אשה — שרוי בלא שמחה, בא ברכה, בלא טובה. וכו'. במערבא אמרי: בלא תורה, בלא חומה וכו'. רבא בר עולא אמר: בלא שלום - a man that does not have a wife is left without joy, bracha, goodness, Torah, protection and peace. Without a spouse, one cannot reach any true level in serving HaShem.

This same concept is further underscored when it comes to bringing korbanos. We do accept sacrifices from gentiles; however, they are brought up as a korban olah. goy is unable to comprehend bringing a sacrifice to HaShem and eating a part of it at the same time.

אתה קדוש ושמך קדוש-Your essence is holiness and Your name is Holy. Everything in the upper worlds is 100% holiness. But down in this world, it is physical. Man was placed down on this world. The gemara in Chagiga (16a) tells us that there are six things said about Man; three are like angels and three like animals. We eat/drink, multiply and produce waste like animals, and we have wisdom, stand erect and can talk Lashon Kodesh like the Angels. From here we learn that our purpose is to live with our animalistic side, all the while elevating it to holiness.

The Kotzker Rebbe z”l once explained the possuk in Tehillim, השמים שמים לה'- Yes it is true that the heavens are holy… Who made it holy? The Shomayim? HaShem did that! But והארץ נתן לבני אדם- The world down below- that is given to Man to make holy. The rebbe explained that in order to do so, we must make use of the means in this world. Just to have more angels down below is pointless; HaShem already has them upstairs!

The Torah tells us, לא תעשה לך פסל וכל תמונה אשר בשמים ממעל- don’t make for yourself a carved image nor any likeness of that which is in the heavens above.

The seforim teach us that this can also mean, לא תעשה לך פסל don’t make yourself into a god. How does one make themselves into a god? By acting as if they live in the heavens, shunning this world completely in the goyish manner, they are in essence proclaiming that they are a god.

In the midbar we ate the mon. The possuk tells us that ויענך וירעבך ויאכלך את המן- He afflicted you and let you hunger and then he fed you the mon. As incredible as the experience of eating the mon was, the Torah still calls it affliction. What was the pain? Chazal tell us that the bread was 100% spiritual. This means that there was no opportunity for us to infuse our own efforts into it which would allow us to grow. (Of course, HaShem was in fact teaching us a different lesson with the mon, namely that everything comes from HaShem.)

With this, we can understand the Mishna in Avos (3:4), R’Shimon (Bar Yochai) taught that when three people eat together and don’t share words of Torah, it is akin to eating from a table of offerings to dead idols. But if they shared Torah, it is as if they ate at HaShem’s table. By taking in spiritual nourishment while eating, a person consecrates his table and the physical food that was eaten is now a mitzvah.

Perhaps it was Rashbi that taught us this Mishna because he learned this lesson firsthand. After exiting with his son from their 12 year hiding spot in the cave, existing on some carobs and kedusha vetahara, they saw a person working his land and they could not fathom how a person in this word can be busy with the mundane. Upon looking at the field, it went up in flames. A Bas Kol called out to return to the cave. Twelve months later, when they re-emerged, they saw a man carrying hadassim branches to honor the Shabbos with. They now understood that one can buy flowers or a geshmake piece of meat and use it to honor the Shabbos. So now, Rashbi said, “Of course, eat at your table and even enjoy it, but make sure to think of HaShem while doing so and it suddenly becomes a korban.”

Parshas Kedoshim contains 51 mitzvos. The theme of the parsha of course is holiness. How does one get there? Not only through fasting and dunking in the mikvah! Respect your parents; give tzeddaka; don’t steal or cheat; be honest and have accurate scales. Don’t speak lashon hara and love your friend like yourself. Through the daily mitzvos of bein adam lachaveiro (which are usually physical) as well, one becomes kadosh.

This may sound simple, but the truth is that what this really means is including HaShem in our day to day activities. Our exercise and our coffee breaks now becomes a gehoibene experience as well because we think of HaShem while doing it.

Lest one may despair in this endeavour of trying to be a kadosh, I would like to share with you the inspiring words of the Sfas Emes on our possuk. He writes that קדושים תהיו is not a mitzvah but rather a havtacha/guarantee! The Torah is guaranteeing us that if we try becoming holy people, it will happen.


Good Shabbos, מרדכי אפפעל