• Nitzotzos

Parshas Kedoshim - A Vision of Unity

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דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־כָּל־עֲדַ֧ת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֥ אֲלֵהֶ֖ם קְדשִׁ֣ים תִּֽהְי֑וּ כִּ֣י קָד֔וֹשׁ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֹ֥ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם: אִ֣ישׁ אִמּ֤וֹ וְאָבִיו֙ תִּירָ֔אוּ וְאֶת־שַׁבְּתֹתַ֖י תִּשְׁמֹ֑רוּ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֹ֥ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם:

"Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy. Every man shall fear his mother and his father, and you shall observe My Sabbaths. I am the Lord, your God." (Vayikra 19:2,3)


A careful reading of these pesukim reveals that there has been a major deviation from the standard operating procedure when giving over the Torah to Klal Yisrael. Ordinarily, Moshe would teach Aaron while Aaron's son stood beside him. There they would remain while Moshe taught the zekeinim who would in turn teach Klal Yisrael. Here, Hashem instructs Moshe to gather Klal Yisrael together and teach them directly. Why? What is so critical about this Parsha that it needs to be learned directly from Moshe Rabbeinu? Why was it necessary for them to learn this Parsha as a community?

Rashi (citing the Medrash in Toras Kohanim 19:1; Vayikra Rabbah 24:5) explains that this Parsha contains most of the fundamental ideas of the Torah upon which the rest of the Torah is dependent. The Medrash (Vayikra Rabbah 24:5) teaches that this Parsha parallels the Aseres Hadibros. "(1) "I am the Lord thy God" (Shmot 20:2) and here it is written, "I am the Lord your God" (Vayikra 19:3); (2) "Thou shalt have no other gods" (Shmot 20:3) and here it is written, "Nor make to yourselves molten gods" (Vayikra 19:4); (3) "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" (Shmot 20:7) and here it is written, "And ye shall not swear by My name falsely" (Vayikra 19:12); (4) "Remember the Sabbath day" (Shmot 20:8) and here it is written, "And ye shall keep My Sabbaths" (Vayikra 19:3); (5) "Honor thy father and thy mother" (Shmot 20:12) and here it is written, "Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father" (Vayikra 19:3); (6) "Thou shalt not murder" (Shmot 20:13) and here it is written, "Neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor" (Vayikra 19,16); (7) "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Shmot 20:13) and here it is written, "Both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death" (Vayikra 20:10); (8) "Thou shalt not steal" (Shmot 20:13) and here it is written, "Ye shall not steal" (Vayikra 19:11); (9) "Thou shalt not bear false witness" (Shmot 20:13) and here it is written, "Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer" (Vayikra 19:16); (10) "Thou shalt not covet ... any thing that is thy neighbor's" (Shmot 20:14) and here it is written, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Vayikra 19:18)."


Naturally, we would expect the Parsha to begin with the major tenets of Judaism but instead we simply find a responsibility to lead lives of Kedusha. How is this a basic tenet of Judaism?


However we are to answer this question, it is clear is that leading a sanctified life is a fundamental principle in the Torah. What then is the precise definition of Kedusha?


Furthermore, in giving over the concept of Kedusha to all of Klal Yisrael there is an underlying implication that the notion of Kedusha is somehow tied to to the concept of community. But why would this be true? Isn't it possible for someone to lead a sanctified life in the privacy of their own homes?


Lastly, the obligation to lead a life of Kedusha is immediately followed by the obligation to fear our parents and to keep Shabbos. What is the inner significance of this juxtaposition?


Kedoshim Tihiyu


There is a fascinating machlokes as to the exact nature of the Torah's obligation of Kedoshim Tihiyu.


Rashi sees Kedoshim Tihiyu as an obligation to separate ourselves from sexual immorality and from sin. He offers several examples that prove that Kedusha is found wherever we find a boundary against sexual immorality we find Kedusha.


The Ramban takes the exact opposite approach of Rashi. Whereas Rashi sees Kedoshim Tihiyu as a Mitzvah to separate ourselves from that which is assur (forbidden), the Ramban sees it as a Mitzvah to separate ourselves from that which is mutar (permissible). This is the Ramban's famous interpretation that we are commanded not to be a naval b'rishus haTorah, disgusting with the "permission" of the Torah. For example, while it is permissible to drink wine and eat meat, Kedoshim Tihiyu demands that we not do so in a gluttonous fashion. To the Ramban, merely following the Mitzvos does not ensure that you will be a holy person. A person must exercise self restraint in order to lead a sanctified life.


(The Rambam (Sefer HaMitzvos, 4) understands that there is no particular Mitzvah of Kedoshim Tihiyu and does not count it as one of the 613 Mitzvos of the Torah (The Bahaga does count it as one of the 613). Rather, it is a general instruction to observe all of the commandments of the Torah. While we will not be discussing the Rambam's position in this article it is still worthy of mention.)


As with any machlokes, eilu vieilu divrei Elokim chaim. Our job is to define both Rashi and then Ramban's position.


To do so we will need to gain a fundamental insight into the nature of Kedusha.


What exactly is Kedusha?


The Torah makes it clear that we should be Kadosh because God Himself is Kadosh.


דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־כָּל־עֲדַ֧ת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֥ אֲלֵהֶ֖ם קְדשִׁ֣ים תִּֽהְי֑וּ כִּ֣י קָד֔וֹשׁ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֹ֥ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם: אִ֣ישׁ אִמּ֤וֹ וְאָבִיו֙ תִּירָ֔אוּ וְאֶת־שַׁבְּתֹתַ֖י תִּשְׁמֹ֑רוּ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֹ֥ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם:

"Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy. (Vayikra 19:2)


The Medrash (Vayikra Rabbah 24:9) expounds:

קְדשִׁים תִּהְיוּ, יָכוֹל כָּמוֹנִי תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר: כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי, קְדֻשָּׁתִי לְמַעְלָה מִקְדֻשַּׁתְכֶם.

“Be holy.” Does that mean that you can be like Me [G‑d]? The verse continues: “since I, G‑d, your L-rd, am holy”; My holiness is greater than your holiness.

The simple understanding of the Medrash is that we would have thought that we could attain the same holiness as God since the Torah says Kedoshim Tihiyu. The passuk therefore continues and says כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי to express that God's holiness is greater than our holiness. The Me'or Einayim interprets this Medrash in exactly the opposite fashion. When the Medrash says יָכוֹל כָּמוֹנִי it means we can be like God (not, I would have thought...). Since God is holy, and our soul is an extension of God, we have the capacity to be holy as well. The Ruzhiner Rebbe explains that when the Medrash says תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר it means, we should learn to say (not, it comes to teach). Thus the Medrash is instructing us to accustom ourselves to say, I am holy. When the yetzer hora attempts to incite you to sin, we are accustomed to saying, “I am holy; how can I stoop so low as to transgress?” Conversely, when the yetzer tov tells us to perform a mitzvah, we are accustomed to saying, “, I am holy, and I will accept your advice and do the mitzvah promptly.” This will elevate the person to the ultimate level of being holy, comparable to Hashem’s holiness. The Zlotchover Maggid (Mayim Rabim, quoting Rebbe Yechiel Michel of Zlolchov) translates קְדֻשָּׁתִי לְמַעְלָה מִקְדֻשַּׁתְכֶם to mean: "Kedushashi L'maale, - My (God's) personal holiness in the heavens above derives and receives sustenance only Mikdushaschem, from your holiness, that is, in the same measure that you sanctify Me below, My name is glorified and sanctified in the heavens above."


But what exactly is Kedusha?


In order to understand the nature of Kedusha we must go back to the very first time Kedusha is mentioned in the Torah. Regarding the seventh day of creation the Torah tells us:


וַיְבָ֤רֶךְ אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־י֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י וַיְקַדֵּ֖שׁ אֹת֑וֹ כִּ֣י ב֤וֹ שָׁבַת֙ מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּ֔וֹ אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָ֥א אֱלֹהִ֖ים לַֽעֲשֽׂוֹת:

And God blessed the seventh day and He hallowed it, for thereon He abstained from all His work that God created to do. (Bereishis 2:3)


Because God sanctified the seventh day He abstained from work. Rashi explains that all of the work that was meant be done on Shabbos was done on the sixth day instead. In other words, a clear distinction was made between the first six days of creation and the seventh day. By abstaining from work the seventh day was separated from the other days, occupying its own unique position. This then is the definition of Kedusha. To separate something from the general in order to dedicate it to the particular.


The Medrash (Vayikra Rabbah 24:4) explicitly connects the concept of Kedusha and separation.

אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְמשֶׁה לֵךְ אֱמֹר לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, בָּנַי כְּשֵׁם שֶׁאֲנִי פָּרוּשׁ כָּךְ תִּהְיוּ פְּרוּשִׁים, כְּשֵׁם שֶׁאֲנִי קָדוֹשׁ כָּךְ תִּהְיוּ קְדוֹשִׁים, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב: קְדוֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ.

The Holy One said to Moshe: go and tell Israel ‘my son, just as I am separate, so too you be separate. Just as I am holy, so too you be holy.’ This is what is written “You shall be holy…” (Vayikra 19:2)


In the Rambam’s introduction to Mishneh Torah he explains that the name Sefer Kedusha was given to this text which concerns itself with forbidden sexual relations and forbidden foods, “for it is with regard to these matters that G‑d has endowed us with holiness and separated us from gentile nations.”


In fact, every time we see the notion of Kedusha we will find the concept of separation.


וְנָֽתַתָּ֣ה אֶת־הַפָּרֹ֘כֶת֘ תַּ֣חַת הַקְּרָסִים֒ וְהֵֽבֵאתָ֥ שָׁ֨מָּה֙ מִבֵּ֣ית לַפָּרֹ֔כֶת אֵ֖ת אֲר֣וֹן הָֽעֵד֑וּת וְהִבְדִּילָ֤ה הַפָּרֹ֨כֶת֙ לָכֶ֔ם בֵּ֣ין הַקֹּ֔דֶשׁ וּבֵ֖ין קֹ֥דֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִֽׁים:

"And you shall place the dividing curtain beneath the clasps. You shall bring there on the inner side of the dividing curtain the Ark of the Testimony, and the dividing curtain shall separate for you between the Holy and the Holy of Holies. (Shemos 26:33)


What make the Kodesh HaKedoshim a unique place is that it is separated from the other Kodesh.


וְלֹ֤א תְחַלְּלוּ֙ אֶת־שֵׁ֣ם קָדְשִׁ֔י וְנִ֨קְדַּשְׁתִּ֔י בְּת֖וֹךְ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אֲנִ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה מְקַדִּשְׁכֶֽם: הַמּוֹצִ֤יא אֶתְכֶם֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם לִֽהְי֥וֹת לָכֶ֖ם לֵֽאלֹהִ֑ים אֲנִ֖י יְהֹוָֽה:'

You shall not desecrate My Holy Name. I shall be sanctified amidst the children of Israel. I am the Lord Who sanctifies you, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, to be a God to you. I am the Lord. (Vayikra 22:32)


God is sanctified amidst the children of Israel precisely because he took us out (separated us) from Mitzrayim.


בְּנֵ֥י עַמְרָ֖ם אַֽהֲרֹ֣ן וּמֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיִּבָּדֵ֣ל אַֽהֲרֹ֡ן לְהַקְדִּישׁוֹ֩ קֹ֨דֶשׁ קָֽדָשִׁ֚ים הֽוּא־וּבָנָיו֙ עַד־עוֹלָ֔ם לְהַקְטִיר֩ לִפְנֵ֨י יְהֹוָ֧ה לְשָֽׁרְת֛וֹ וּלְבָרֵ֥ךְ בִּשְׁמ֖וֹ עַד־עוֹלָֽם:

The sons of Amram; Aaron and Moses, and Aaron was separated, to be sanctified as most holy, he and his sons forever, to burn incense before the Lord, to serve Him, and to bless with His name to eternity. (Divrei HaYamim 1 23:13)


Aaron was separated in order to be sanctified as a Kohen.


Let us try to develop the concept of Kedusha as separation a little bit further. We separate in order to dedicate. Kedusha then is the ultimate act of intimacy. The creation of unity. To create this state of unity, one must first create separation. Intimacy means exclusivity. As long as something belongs to the general it cannot belong to the particular. Once it is separated, the barriers for intimacy have been removed. It can now be designated for the particular and thus endowed with Kedusha. The halachos of Shabbos reflect the intimacy of the day. Shabbos is ushered in with Kiddush (designation) and escorted out with Havdala (separation). When we bring Shabbos in we recognize the state of unity that we are entering. When we escort Shabbos out we recognize that there is a separation between Shabbos and the rest of the week.


The notion that Kedusha is a state of intimacy is seen in the communication between Hashem and Moshe.

Rashi (Vayikra 1:1) points out that whenever Hashem communicates with Moshe (וַיְדַבֵּר, וַיֹּאמֶר, וַיְצַו) He always calls (קריאה) Moshe first.

For example, the passuk says:

וַיִּקְרָ֖א אֶל־משֶׁ֑ה וַיְדַבֵּ֤ר יְהֹוָה֙ אֵלָ֔יו מֵאֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵ֖ד לֵאמֹֽר:

And He called to Moses, and the Lord spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying


Rashi calls this לשון חבה, a language of affection, the same expression the Malachim use when communicating with each other (וקרא זה אל זה). In contrast, when Hashem communicates with the prophets of the nations of the world (Bilaam), he uses the word וַיִּקָּר. Rashi says that this is a לשון עראי וטומאה, language that denotes happenstance and impurity. Notice the language of Rashi. Ordinarily, the opposite of Tumah is Kedusha but Rashi doesn't say that Hashem spoke to Moshe with a language of Kedusha. It is a language of affection that Hashem uses. In other words, Kedusha and Chiba (affection) are synonymous. Both relate to the notion of intimacy.


Seen from this perspective, the creation of the world is the ultimate act of Kedusha. Prior to the creation of the world, God was the only existence. In creating the world God constricted Himself, so to speak, in order to allow space for the existence of another. In other words, God separated a place and designated it for us. In the process of creation there is a constant theme of separation. Light is separated from darkness. Upper waters are separated from lower waters. Day is separated from night. The entirety of creation is one that embodies the formula for Kedusha. Separation and designation. Thus, while we cannot say anything about God Himself we can speak about His manifestations. Creation is the ultimate manifestation of God and since it embodies the formula of Kedusha, it is understandable that the Torah says God is Kadosh.


These same dynamics (separation and designation) are at play in the creation of a Jewish marriage. Marriage is called Kiddushin. When a man betroths a woman he says, הרי את מקודשת לי. Tosafos (Kiddushin 2b) explains that this statement means, להיות לי מקודשת לעולם בשבילי. You (the woman) should be to me (the husband), separated from the world for me. He explains that the simple meaning of the word מקודשת means מיוחדת (special) or מזומנת (designated). In other words, there are two things going on in a marriage. The separation of the woman from the rest of the world and the unique relationship that is then created. Since we have described Kedusha an unity and intimacy, it is appropriate that marriage, the ultimate expression of intimacy, will follow the same formula of separation and designation.


At the end of our Parsha (Vayikra 20:26) the passuk says:

וִֽהְיִ֤יתֶם לִי֙ קְדשִׁ֔ים כִּ֥י קָד֖וֹשׁ אֲנִ֣י יְהוָֹ֑ה וָֽאַבְדִּ֥ל אֶתְכֶ֛ם מִן־הָֽעַמִּ֖ים לִֽהְי֥וֹת לִֽי

And you shall be holy to Me, for I, the Lord, am holy, and I have distinguished you from the peoples, to be Mine.


Rashi explains:

ואבדל אתכם מן העמים להיות לי: אם אתם מובדלים מהם הרי אתם שלי, ואם לאו הרי אתם של נבוכדנצר וחביריו.

And I have distinguished you from the peoples, to be Mine: If you are separated from them [through your observance of Torah], you will be Mine, but if not, you will belong to Nebuchadnezzar and his ilk.


Again we are instructed to be Kadosh because God is Kadosh. Rashi taught us that in order for us to be in a relationship with God we must be separated from the Nations of the world. Just as with Kiddushin between a husband and a wife, in order to be in a distinguished (intimate) relationship with Hashem we must first be separated from the Gentiles. If we are like every other nation then there is no space for the relationship to exist.


In truth, the logic operates in the reverse. It's not that God's creation of the world is patterned after a marriage, marriage is a symbolic representation of creation itself. Just as God pulled himself back (separating) and designated a place for the world to exist (allowing for a relationship with creation), so too a Jewish marriage built upon the concepts of separation and designation.


The notion that intimacy (Kedusha) requires exclusivity (a separated place) is expressed in the Medrash Tanchuma (Kedoshim 2). The Medrash explains that when Hashem demands Kedusha of us, He does so because we are the descendants of Yaakov Avinu.

"HaKadosh Baruch Hu said to Yisrael, “Before I created My world, the ministering angels praised My name through you and sanctified Me through you by saying (Tehillim 106, 48): “Blessed is Hashem, the God of Yisrael from This World to the World to Come.”

When Adam HaRishon was created, the angels said, “Master of the universe, is this the one in whose name we are praising You?” He told them, “No. This person is a thief, as it states (Bereishis 3, 17): ‘And you ate of the tree.’”

When Noach came, they said to Him, “Is this the one?” He told them, “(No.) This person is a drunkard, as it states (ibid. 9, 21): ‘Then he drank of the wine (and became drunk).’”

Avraham came, they said to Him, “Is this the one?” He told them, “This is a stranger, from which Yishmael came out.”

Yitzchak came, they said to Him, “Is this the one?” He told them, “This one loves My enemy, as it states (ibid. 25, 28): ‘And Yitzchak loved Eisav.’”

When Yaakov came, they said to Him, “Is this the one?” He told them, “Yes, for so it says (ibid. 35, 10): ‘Your name shall no longer be Yaakov, but your name shall be Yisrael.’” Thus, all of Yisrael were named after him. At that time, HKB”H sanctified Yisrael for His name, as it states (Yeshayah 49, 3): “Yisrael, in whom I will be glorified.” HKB”H said to Yisrael, “Since you were sanctified for My name before I created My world, be holy as I am holy, as it states: ‘Because I am kadosh.’” Therefore, it states: “You shall be kadosh.”


Adam was a thief. Noach a drunkard. Avraham and Yitzchak had children that did not serve God. As great as these people were, their lives contained elements that did not exclusively serve God. Therefore the Malachim could not sanctify God using Adam, Noach, Avraham or Yitzchak. Only Yaakov, whose life had no foreign elements, could be used to praise and sanctify God. Only Yaakov's life was completely separated and designated for God. Yaakov embodied a life of Kedusha. As his progeny, God expects us to do the same.


To Be A True Poresh


With this definition of Kedusha in mind we can divide the world into three categories. (see Tanya chapter 7)


1. That which exists within the boundaries of Kedusha. These are things that have been set aside and sanctified for God. (Mitzvos)

2. That which can never exist within the boundaries of Kedusha. (Aveiros)

3. That which can be elevated to the realm of Kedusha or lowered into the realm of Tumah. (Kellipas Nogah).


Mitzvos are by the very nature Kadosh. Aveiros are by their nature in the realm of Tumah. Most of our world falls into the third category, Kellipas Nogah. Kellipas Nogah means that there is an admixture of both good and evil. Every physical object is endowed with mystical sparks cast from the original divine flame (Ohr Torah 101b, section 413).The sparks remain trapped inside the physical, until a human comes along and uses the object in the service of God. When we give money earned in business to charity, the mystical sparks in our place of business, in the items with which we conducted business and in the people with whom we did business are released from their imprisonment and return to their original abode. Every physical object is intended to serve God in one way or another, and when it does, it has fulfilled its purpose. This is the definition of the word mutr, permissible. This means that the Godliness in these items is accessible. It is possible to use these items in the service of God and elevate them into the realm of Kedusha. It is also possible to use these items without Godly intention and then they will be relegated to the realm of Tumah.


We therefore see that Kedusha can exist on two plains. In the transcendent realm of the Mitzvos and in the mundane world of Kellipas Nogah. Leading a sanctified life necessarily involves both. The transcendent spiritual experience ought to inspire us to engage in the mundane world and reveal its capacity for Kedusha. The battleground for a sanctified life is in the realm of Kellipas Nogah. Mitzvos are already set aside and sanctified. There is nothing for us to contribute in this area aside from performance of the Mitzvos. The mundane world presents us with the opportunity to create intimacy with God in all dimensions. An intimate relationship requires total unity. To be attached to God only in the realm of the spiritual would be a failure in our pursuit of the sanctified life. By engaging in the physical world in a fashion that is connected to God we infuse Kedusha into our ordinary existence. This explains why so many of the Mitzvos contained in our Parsha concern ones ordinary life. Honoring our parents, the laws of agriculture, being charitable and honest, and guarding against gossip and slander, hatred and revenge, idolatry and paganism. These values imply an engagement with the physical world but one that is meant to reveal their inner Godliness. As the Ramchal in Messilas Yesharim (chapter 26) defines Kedusha "even in the midst of performing those physical acts necessary to sustain his body, never strays from the highest intimacy." Or as the mekubal Rav Menachem Recanati says, (Olam HaYedidut, p. 37, based on commentary of Rabbi Menachem Recanati on Shemot 20:14) "Kedusha is the preservation of the unity of the worlds, and tuma is the 'troublemaker who separates close-ones.'" Even during our engagement with the mundane we remain united with God.


And here is where the concept of being a poresh comes into play. Being a poresh is not merely self restraint or abstention. Anyone can choose to restrain themselves because it furthers a particular goal. We can eat less in order maintain a healthy weight. We can spend less on frivolous pursuits in order to increase more meaningful comforts. The notion of self control in Judaism is not so trite. A Jew is a binary being. On the one hand we are endowed with a Godly soul that gives us a unique connection to Hashem. On the other, we have an animal soul that gives rise to all of our self indulgent desires. Being a poresh means that a person has made a choice to lead a life that is in consonance with his Godly soul. It is a choice to follow the rationale of his mind over the desires of his body. In so doing we distinguish ourselves from the animal who cannot engage in character refinement. This is not merely a choice to follow our intellectual nature over our instinctual nature so that we may lead a better life. That is simply a choice to be a better animal. Being a poresh is a far more elevated choice. It is a triumph of the spiritual over the animal.


With this in mind we are ready to define the nature of the Machlokes between Rashi and the the Ramban. Kedusha is about separation and designation to create unity. Leading a life of Kedusha not only has a purifying affect on the person but has a unifying impact on the world. A world of Kedusha is one where God's presence is clearly recognized.


Both Rashi and the Ramban see the imperative of Kedoshim Tihiyu as one perishus. Where they differ is in which realm this abstinence is called for.

Let us take an exact look at the language of Rashi:

הוו פרושים מן העריות ומן העבירה

Separate yourselves from sexual immorality and from sin.


To Rashi, Kedoshim Tihiyu is the injuction to be poresh from sin, the area that is specifically ungodly. We are transformed indeed the world is transformed, when we make the choice to be actively separate ourselves from that which is antithetical to Kedusha. And although Rashi sees this on a general level, he specifically speaks about the arena of human relations. As we said earlier, marriage is just a microcosm of the creation of the world. In the ultimate act of Kedusha (separation and designation) God brought the world into being. In a Jewish marriage we do the same. A violation of the sanctity of the sexual is a violation of the fabric of creation. If there is inappropriate intimacy in our relationships how can we reveal God in our world bringing unity to creation?


The Ramban fundamentally agrees with Rashi but he advances the theory one step further. In demonstrating that we do not impulsively engage in our indulgences in the arena of permissible gratifications, we are bringing Kedusha to the world of the permissible (Kellipas Nogah). The person who looks at the mundane world and asks themselves, "Is this necessary?" is fundamentally asking themselves a different question from, "Is this permissible?" Those who ask, is this permitted, may still be leading an indulgent lifestyle. Such a lifestyle in incongruous with a life of Kedusha. It fails to recognize the fundamental unity that exists between God and creation. Those who ask themselves is this necessary, recognize that creation is meant to be engaged only for the purposes of revealing God in this world. To such a person a life of excess is abhorrent. Simply abstaining from sin could never endow someone with the title of Kadosh. Their lives are not absolutely unified with God's intention for our world. They are merely staying away from that which is inherently repulsive. When our perishus includes that which is permitted, when we engage that mundane in order to elevate it then we are leading lives that are in harmony with God's will. This is the sanctified life of Kedoshim Tihiyu.


One Theme - Kedusha, Revering Parents and Shabbos


We can now understand the juxtaposition between the Mitzva of Kedoshim Tihiyu and revering our parents and Shabbos.


Ultimately Kedusha is about the creation of relationships. When we separate from the general and dedicate ourselves to the particular, we reveal the oneness of creation. The two Mitzvos that embody this theme are revering our parents and Shabbos.


The Gemara in Kiddushin (30b) explains that honoring and revering our parents is equated to honoring and revering God himself.

ת"ר נאמר (שמות כ, יב) כבד את אביך ואת אמך ונאמר (משלי ג, ט) כבד את ה' מהונך השוה הכתוב כבוד אב ואם לכבוד המקום נאמר (ויקרא יט, ג) איש אמו ואביו תיראו ונאמר (דברים ו, יג) את ה' אלהיך תירא ואותו תעבוד השוה הכתוב מוראת אב ואם למוראת המקום...וכן בדין ששלשתן שותפין בו ת"ר שלשה שותפין הן באדם הקב"ה ואביו ואמו בזמן שאדם מכבד את אביו ואת אמו אמר הקב"ה מעלה אני עליהם כאילו דרתי ביניהם וכבדוני

The Sages taught that it is stated: “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:11), and it is stated: “Honor the Lord with your wealth” (Proverbs 3:9). In this manner, the verse equates the honor of one’s father and mother to the honor of the Omnipresent, as the term “honor” is used in both cases. Similarly, it is stated: “A man shall fear his mother and his father” (Leviticus 19:3), and it is stated: “You shall fear the Lord your God and Him you shall serve” (Deuteronomy 6:13). The verse equates the fear of one’s father and mother to the fear of the Omnipresent... And so too, the equating of one’s attitude toward his parents to his attitude toward God is a logical derivation, as the three of them are partners in his creation. As the Sages taught: There are three partners in the forming of a person: The Holy One, Blessed be He, who provides the soul, and his father and his mother. When a person honors his father and mother, the Holy One, Blessed be He, says: I ascribe credit to them as if I dwelt between them and they honor Me as well.


The Gemara continues (31a) tells us that Rav Yosef, when hearing his mother's footsteps, would say: "I will arise before the approaching Schechinah.


Indeed, Rav Shimon bar Yochai is of the opinion (Yerushalmi, Peah 15d) that G‑d attaches greater importance to the honoring of parents than to honoring Himself.

The passuk in Mishlei (3:9) says:

כַּבֵּ֣ד אֶת־יְ֖הוָה מֵהוֹנֶ֑ךָ וּ֜מֵרֵאשִׁ֗ית כָּל־תְּבוּאָתֶֽךָ:

Honor the Lord from your substance and from the first of all your grain,


The "substance" that God graciously gives to us is meant to be used to honor God. To honor God we take tithes, give to the poor and the hungry etc... If we don't have money we are not obligated. However, when it comes to honoring our parents, whether we have been blessed with the means or not we are obligated to honor our parents even if it means begging from door to door.


Chazal make it clear that honoring our parents is analogous to honoring God Himself. When we honor and revere our parents we recognize that we have a source. Our very existence sprung up from a source that is beyond our self. When our parents were separated from the rest of the world and dedicated to each other they entered into an intimate (oneness) relationship. We are the product of that union. The world proclaims itself to be an independent entity from God. A life of Kedusha is designed to recognize the unity of creation. Honoring our parents is a recognition of this unity. Revering our parents is another expression of the theme of the Kedusha oriented life.


The Mitzvah of Shabbos also shares a common theme with the Mitzvah of Kedoshim Tihiyu and revering our parents.


Shabbos is a weekly wedding that occurs between Klal Yisrael and Hashem. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 11:8) says, "Rav Shimon Bar Yochai said: Shabbos came before the Master of the World and complained, ‘Each day of the week has a mate. Sunday has Monday, Tuesday has Wednesday, Thursday has Friday. But I have no mate!' God replied, ‘The Jewish nation will be your mate!'"


Perhaps this Medrash can explained in light of the analysis of Shabbos we presented at the outset of this article. Shabbos is the paradigmatic example of Kedusha. God separated Shabbos from the remaining days of the week by being "poresh" and abstaining from work. In this way it is set apart and sanctified. Shabbos then ought to be the ultimate expression of oneness and yet it lacks a mate. There is no eighth day for it to be intimate with. What is the value, complains Shabbos of being separated and designated if I have no partner to be unified with? To this Hashem responds that Klal Yisrael will be a mate for Shabbos. And it is a perfect shidduch! The nation that is designated to uncover the oneness of God in this world by leading a sanctified life is partnered with day that is the ultimate expression of sanctification in this world. In this parable, Klal Yisrael represents the eighth day which is a reference to Olam Haba, the time when God's oneness in the world will be clearly manifest in the world. No wonder that the Gemara in Kesubos (62b - see also Shulchan Aruch OC 280:1) tells us that the designated time for Talmidei Chachamim to engage in physical intimacy with their wives is Friday night: “Every Friday night…” Yehudah the son of R. Chiyya and son-in-law of Rav Yannai would spend all his time in Yeshiva but every Shabbos eve he would come home."

No wonder on Shabbos (in Yom Shabbason) we sing the words, “U’va’u chulam biv’ris yachad, na’aseh vi’nishma amru ki’echad…” And only after tasting such achdus— “u’phaschu vi’anu Hashem echad...." When we are connected to the unity of Shabbos we become capable of procaliming the oneness of Hashem.


A Community of Kedoshim

We are now ready to understand why the Mitzvah of Kedoshim Tihiyu was given to Klal Yisrael as a community. Because Kedusha involves separation one could come to the mistaken notion that Kedusha requires isolation. In fact, because Kedusha is the revelation of unity between God and this world, it is just the opposite. We are poresh in order to engage appropriately. A Torah lifestyle requires us to engage the world around us.


The Gemara in Shabbos (88b, 89a) relates the story of how Moshe Rabbeinu received the Torah:

ואמר רבי יהושע בן לוי בשעה שעלה משה למרום אמרו מלאכי השרת לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא רבונו של עולם מה לילוד אשה בינינו אמר להן לקבל תורה בא אמרו לפניו חמודה גנוזה שגנוזה לך תשע מאות ושבעים וארבעה דורות קודם שנברא העולם אתה מבקש ליתנה לבשר ודם מה אנוש כי תזכרנו ובן אדם כי תפקדנו ה׳ אדנינו מה אדיר שמך בכל הארץ אשר תנה הודך על השמים אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה החזיר להן תשובה אמר לפניו רבונו של עולם מתיירא אני שמא ישרפוני בהבל שבפיהם אמר לו אחוז בכסא כבודי וחזור להן תשובה שנאמר מאחז פני כסא פרשז עליו עננו ואמר רבי נחום מלמד שפירש שדי מזיו שכינתו ועננו עליו אמר לפניו רבונו של עולם תורה שאתה נותן לי מה כתיב בה אנכי ה׳ אלהיך אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים אמר להן למצרים ירדתם לפרעה השתעבדתם תורה למה תהא לכם שוב מה כתיב בה לא יהיה לך אלהים אחרים בין הגוים אתם שרויין שעובדין עבודת גלולים שוב מה כתיב בה זכור את יום השבת לקדשו כלום אתם עושים מלאכה שאתם צריכין שבות שוב מה כתיב בה לא תשא משא ומתן יש ביניכם שוב מה כתיב בה כבד את אביך ואת אמך אב ואם יש לכם שוב מה כתיב בה לא תרצח לא תנאף לא תגנב קנאה יש ביניכם יצר הרע יש ביניכם מיד הודו לו להקדוש ברוך הוא שנאמר ה׳ אדנינו מה אדיר שמך וגו׳ ואילו תנה הודך על השמים לא כתיב מיד כל אחד ואחד נעשה לו אוהב ומסר לו דבר שנאמר עלית למרום שבית שבי לקחת מתנות באדם בשכר שקראוך אדם לקחת מתנות אף מלאך המות מסר לו דבר שנאמר ויתן את הקטרת ויכפר על העם ואומר ויעמד בין המתים ובין החיים וגו׳ אי לאו דאמר ליה מי הוה ידע:

And Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: When Moses ascended on High to receive the Torah, the ministering angels said before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, what is one born of a woman doing here among us? The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to them: He came to receive the Torah. The angels said before Him: The Torah is a hidden treasure that was concealed by you 974 generations before the creation of the world, and you seek to give it to flesh and blood? As it is stated: “The word which He commanded to a thousand generations” (Psalms 105:8). Since the Torah, the word of God, was given to the twenty-sixth generation after Adam, the first man, the remaining 974 generations must have preceded the creation of the world. “What is man that You are mindful of him and the son of man that You think of him?” (Psalms 8:5). Rather, “God our Lord, how glorious is Your name in all the earth that Your majesty is placed above the heavens” (Psalms 8:2). The rightful place of God’s majesty, the Torah, is in the heavens. The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Moses: Provide them with an answer as to why the Torah should be given to the people. Moses said before Him: Master of the Universe, I am afraid lest they burn me with the breath of their mouths. God said to him: Grasp My throne of glory for strength and protection, and provide them with an answer. And from where is this derived? As it is stated: “He causes him to grasp the front of the throne, and spreads His cloud over it” (Job 26:9), and Rabbi Naḥum said: This verse teaches that God spread the radiance of His presence and His cloud over Moses. Moses said before Him: Master of the Universe, the Torah that You are giving me, what is written in it? God said to him: “I am the Lord your God Who brought you out of Egypt from the house of bondage” (Exodus 20:2). Moses said to the angels: Did you descend to Egypt? Were you enslaved to Pharaoh? Why should the Torah be yours? Again Moses asked: What else is written in it? God said to him: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). Moses said to the angels: Do you dwell among the nations who worship idols that you require this special warning? Again Moses asked: What else is written in it? The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to him: “Remember the Shabbat day to sanctify it” (Exodus 20:8). Moses asked the angels: Do you perform labor that you require rest from it? Again Moses asked: What else is written in it? “Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7), meaning that it is prohibited to swear falsely. Moses asked the angels: Do you conduct business with one another that may lead you to swear falsely? Again Moses asked: What else is written in it? The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to him: “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). Moses asked the angels: Do you have a father or a mother that would render the commandment to honor them relevant to you? Again Moses asked: What else is written in it? God said to him: “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal” (Exodus 20:13) Moses asked the angels: Is there jealousy among you, or is there an evil inclination within you that would render these commandments relevant? Immediately they agreed with the Holy One, Blessed be He, that He made the right decision to give the Torah to the people, and as it is stated: “God our Lord, how glorious is Your name in all the earth” (Psalms 8:10), while “that Your majesty is placed above the heavens” is not written because the angels agreed with God that it is appropriate to give the Torah to the people on earth. Immediately, each and every one of the angels became an admirer of Moses and passed something to him, as it is stated: “You ascended on high, you took a captive, you took gifts on account of man, and even among the rebellious also that the Lord God might dwell there” (Psalms 68:19). The meaning of the verse is: In reward for the fact that they called you man, you are not an angel and the Torah is applicable to you, you took gifts from the angels. And even the Angel of Death gave him something, as Moses told Aaron how to stop the plague, as it is stated: “And he placed the incense, and he atoned for the people” (Numbers 17:12). And the verse says: “And he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stopped” (Numbers 17:13). If it were not that the Angel of Death told him this remedy, would he have known it?

The Malachim initially contend that a yelud isha, a son born of a woman, is not worthy of receiving the Torah. The Torah was created 974 generations before the creation of the world. Its essence is completely spiritual. How could it possibly relate to the finite world. And in truth the Malachim are correct. The Torah in its essence is completely spiritual. God is one with his knowledge (see Rambam's Guide for the Perplexed, chapter 68 of Book I where he says God is the unity of knowledge-the knower-the known) and the Torah is the will and the wisdom of God. Moshe Rabbeinu himself does not know how to answer this question until God instructs Moshe to grab on to the Kisei HaKavod. This instruction provides the key to understanding the remainder of the Gemara. God gives the Torah in order that we discover the unity between God and His creation. Flesh and blood is capable of connecting to the Divine. This the becomes Moshe's response to the Malachim. Yes the inner essence of the Torah is spiritual but it is clothed in the language of this world. Every Mitzvah in the Torah involves engaging the world around us. Yes we have a yezter hora but nested in our humanity is the opportunity to reveal a unity with God. It is our difference from the Malchim that gives us the opportunity to transcend our inner animal and choose a life of Godliness. The Torah is our tool to reveal the oneness of creation. This explains why the Malach HaMaves provides Moshe with the antidote to death itself. Death is the ultimate Tumah. It is the expression of disconnection. Armed with the Torah of Kedusha (unity), death is vanquished.


True unity is only seen in Klal Yisrael.


וּפַרְעֹ֖ה הִקְרִ֑יב וַיִּשְׂאוּ֩ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֨ל אֶת־עֵֽינֵיהֶ֜ם וְהִנֵּ֥ה מִצְרַ֣יִם | נֹסֵ֣עַ אַֽחֲרֵיהֶ֗ם וַיִּֽירְאוּ֙ מְאֹ֔ד וַיִּצְעֲק֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶל־יְהֹוָֽה:

Pharaoh drew near, and the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold! the Egyptians were advancing after them. They were very frightened, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. (Shemos 14:10)


Rashi notes the use of the singular נֹסֵ֣עַ (as opposed to Nosim) and explains:

נסע אחריהם:בלב אחד כאיש אחד. דבר אחר והנה מצרים נוסע אחריהם, ראו שר של מצרים נוסע מן השמים לעזור למצרים. תנחומא:

the Egyptians were advancing after them:Heb. נֹסֵעַ [in the singular]. With one accord, like one man. Alternatively, [in the singular it means that] and behold, Egypt was advancing after them, [denoting that] they [the Israelites] saw the heavenly prince of Egypt advancing from heaven to aid the Egyptians.


This is to teach us that the Egyptians stood unified against Klal Yisrael – BiLev Echad K’Ish Echad, with one heart like one person.


We find a similar language in Rashi when Klal Yisrael receives the Torah.

וַיִּסְע֣וּ מֵֽרְפִידִ֗ים וַיָּבֹ֨אוּ֙ מִדְבַּ֣ר סִינַ֔י וַיַּֽחֲנ֖וּ בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר וַיִּֽחַן־שָׁ֥ם יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל נֶ֥גֶד הָהָֽר:

They journeyed from Rephidim, and they arrived in the desert of Sinai, and they encamped in the desert, and Israel encamped there opposite the mountain. (Shemos 19:2)


Again Rashi notes the use of the singular וַיִּֽחַן (and he camped) despite the fact that all of Klal Yisrael was camped near the mountain. Rashi explains:

ויחן שם ישראל:כאיש אחד בלב אחד, אבל שאר כל החניות בתרעומת ובמחלוקת:

and Israel encamped there:Heb. וַיִחַן, [the singular form, denoting that they encamped there] as one man with one heart, but all the other encampments were [divided] with complaints and with strife.


This is to teach us that Klal Yisrael stood in a state of unity around Har Sinai.They were, K’Ish Echad BiLev Echad, like one person with one heart.


And while the language is similar, there is one critical difference. Regarding the Egyptians Rashi says, they were as one heart and one person. Regarding Klal Yisrael Rashi says, they were as one person with one heart. Why is the lev (heart) placed before the ish (person) by the Egyptians and reversed by Klal Yisrael.


Rav Hutner explains that commonality and unity are not the same thing. When people stand together for a particular cause that is commonality. When people share an essence that is unity. The Egyptians were brought together because of a common cause. They were one heart (cause) before they were one person. The commonality caused their togetherness.

In contrast Klal Yisrael shares a unified essence. We are, as the Yerushalmi in Nedarim (9:4) describes us, guf echad, one body. The passuk in Divrei HaYamim (1, 17:21) describes us “U’mi ki’amcha Yisroel, goy echad ba’aretz.” The Meshech Chochma (Ve’zos HaBracha, 34:8, Va’eschanan, 4:29) explains the gemara in Yevamos (60a) which teaches that only Klal Yisrael is called Adam to mean that only Klal Yisrael can be called the singular Adam because only Klal Yisrael has true unity. While the world is made up of distinct matter, the Jew is defined by his unique Godly soul and therefore is seen as one essence. Thus when Klal Yisrael stood by Har Sinai we were one person before we were one heart. We were not bought together by a common cause but by a shared essence.


In order to receive a Torah that reveals the unity between God and His creation, Klal Yisrael needed to mirror that state by standing united by Har Sinai. This posture is the essence of Kedusha. The Ben Ish Chai explains that the unity of Klal Yisrael by Har Sinai implies that we were surrounded by Kedusha. The letters that surround הר (hey-reish) spell out Kodesh (the hey is surrounded by a dalet and a vav, the reish is surrounded by the kuf and the shin). Kedusha is unity. Kedusha is meant to be achieved not in isolation but within the community. We are separated from the Nations of the World so that we can be brought together in harmony. To give the Mitzvah of Kedoshim Tihiyu to the Zekeinim who would in turn teach it to groups of individuals would have betrayed the very idea of Kedusha that Hashem was trying to convey.

Holiness if a Fundamental Principle


At the very outset of this article we questioned how the imperative of Kedoshim Tihiyu could be seen as one of the fundamental principles of the Torah.

The 8th mitzvah in the Rambam's Sefer HaMitzvos is that we are commanded to emulate God. The source that the Rambam brings for this mitzvah is the passuk in Devarim (28:9)

יְקִֽימְךָ֙ יְהֹוָ֥ה לוֹ֙ לְעַ֣ם קָד֔וֹשׁ כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֖ר נִשְׁבַּע־לָ֑ךְ כִּ֣י תִשְׁמֹ֗ר אֶת־מִצְו‍ֹת֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ וְהָֽלַכְתָּ֖ בִּדְרָכָֽיו:

The Lord will establish you as His holy people as He swore to you, if you observe the commandments of the Lord, your God, and walk in His ways.


This mitzvah is again repeated in Devarim (11:22):

כִּי֩ אִם־שָׁמֹ֨ר תִּשְׁמְר֜וּן אֶת־כָּל־הַמִּצְוָ֣ה הַזֹּ֗את אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָֽנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם לַֽעֲשׂתָ֑הּ לְאַֽהֲבָ֞ה אֶת־יְהֹוָ֧ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֛ם לָלֶ֥כֶת בְּכָל־דְּרָכָ֖יו וּלְדָבְקָה־בֽוֹ:

For if you keep all these commandments which I command you to do them, to love the Lord, your God, to walk in all His ways, and to cleave to Him,


The Sifri in Parshas Eikev explains, "Just as God is called merciful, so too, you must be merciful. Just as God is called kind, so too, you must be kind. Just as God is called righteous, so too, you must be righteous. Just as God is called pious, so too, you must be pious."


Similarly, the Gemara in Sotah 14a tells us, "Just as God clothes the naked, ... so too, you must clothe the naked. Just as God visits the sick, ... so too, you must visit the sick. Just as God comforts mourners, ... so too, you must comfort mourners."


We are called upon to emulate God. If he is Kadosh so too we must be Kadosh. That is to say, God as creator separated and designated a place for the world to exist so we could reveal his unity and so too we must engage in acts of separation and designation that reveal unity. This is what it means to lead a life of Kedusha.


It is now clear that the fundamental principle of the Torah is Kedoshim Tihiyu. Everything else is a detail. Every Mitzvah is predicated on this basic calling. We are here to lead sanctified lives that reveal God's oneness in this world. Ultimately, the world will become a place of transparent Godliness. Kedusha (unity) will be revealed. This is as the Gemara in Baba Basra (75b) teaches, “In the future age, all of the righteous will be proclaimed as holy, as G‑d is proclaimed holy.” And the righteous refers to all members of Klal Yisrael, as the passuk in Yeshayahu (60:22) states: “Your people are all righteous.”



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