Parshat Aharei Mot-Kedoshim: The Secret to Being Holy
ב. דַּבֵּר אֶל כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם:
Think to yourself of a holy person. What picture do you have in your head? The image of an elderly man with a white beard, a black hat on his head and on top of that hat a golden halo?
Why didn’t you picture yourself?
Didn’t you think to yourself for a moment that YOU yourself are holy? Did you not know? YOU have the ability to be Kadosh!
You may be thinking to yourself, Who am I kidding? I’m a simple person who goes about their day just like anybody else. I’m not anywhere near that Rav or Rebbitsen’s level. I wish I was! Or maybe, I’ve done so many wrong things in the past, there is no way a person like me can ever reach such high levels, I’m so sunken in my avonot, my sins! I’m a lost case (has veShalom)! And so, you discourage yourself from even trying to seize this thing known as Kedushah.
This isn’t correct thinking.
In Parashat Kedoshim, HaKadosh Barukh Hu instructs Moshe Rabbenu to gather the entire Kelal Yisrael as a congregation to speak to each and every one of them. This is one of the only times this happens in the Torah HaKedoshah. The pasuk says, Daber El Kol Adat Benei Yisrael ve’Amarata Elehem Kedoshim Tehiyu, Speak to the ENTIRE Kelal Yisrael and tell them, You Shall be Holy. What is so urgent that the entire Benei Yisrael, the religious ones and the sinners alike, needs to be told in unison to be holy? What is the purpose of telling those who it seems the Missvah doesn’t even pertain to that they must be holy? If we told a Rav to maintain his holiness and strive for more, I understand. But even the lowest of the low, the heretics and the complete resha’im (wicked and immoral people) are required to be there and are commanded the same thing as the rest of the nation is. It’s like telling a student who can’t even get a 20 on an algebra test that they will be a world renowned calculus professor one day. Impossible! Why should we even waste their time? Because every single person in Kelal Yisrael has the ability to be Kadosh. Everybody, no matter what their level now, no matter what they think of themselves, can reach such high spiritual levels. Don’t be discouraged!! If even the most wicked and lowly person in the entire nation, who doesn’t even recognize HaShem is required to be present when HaShem instructs Benei Yisrael ‘Kedoshim Tehiyu’ because he too is capable of such sanctity, so are you.
The Parashah reveals to us how.
There are different levels of attaining Kedushah, depending on how we define the concept. The main factor of Kedushah is that of separating ourselves. Rashi tells us that Kedushah is attained by separating ourselves from immorality, from what is not good. On the most simple level, pull yourself away from lying, stealing, coveting what is not yours, and you will end up being kadosh. So you can lock yourself in a room away from it all and bam, you’re Kadosh! But the point isn’t to be a holy hermit. We must find Kedushah within our daily lives. The Ramban explains the next step, separate yourself from what is permitted to you. True, we are permitted to eat meat and drink wine, but a kadosh person will not over indulge; they know their limit. One should not stuff themselves until they can’t breathe or get so drunk that they cannot function. Just because the Torah gives us the license to do something, doesn’t mean that we should take advantage of this privilege. If you do eat and drink too much it is not that you sinned, it is permissible after all, but you are missing out on attaining a higher level of ruhaniut, spirituality. You are missing the whole point of what Kedushah really is.
Believe it or not, there is a level even higher that this one. HaRav Ginzberg revealed to me that the reason why during Kedushah we jump up three times when we say ‘Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh’ is because to attain Kedushah, we must elevate ourselves; we separate ourselves from what is below. So far, we discussed how to attain Kedushah by not doing something, by holding back, by not overindulging, but an even higher level is by actively pursuing good things until we won’t even have the desire to do the bad that we so much want to pursue. The Baal Shem Tov explains that this is exactly what is meant by the pasuk ‘Sur me’Rah ve’Aseh Tov’. Turn yourself away from bad and do good. By the time you turn back around, you won’t even consider taking up the bad you once left behind.
In the first two levels, we tell ourselves we have to stop everything we are doing and give up so much in order to end up a kadosh person. The highest form of Kedushah can be attained, not by suddenly stopping to do all those ‘bad things’ but rather doing so much good, so much Torah and Missvot, that we become so elevated that we won’t even want to look at the things we used to do before. This way is doesn’t feel like such a sacrifice after all. This way, it’s really true, ALL of Kelal Yisrael have the opportunity to be Kedoshim! Just keep doing good, keep doing Missvot! This way we actively build ourselves to become Kadosh people.
The Lekah Tov brings that the Zohar HaKadosh describes in more detail how a Missvah brings a person to Kedushah. In Parashat Aharei Mot, the pasuk tells us, ‘U’Shemartem et Hukai ve’Et Mishpatai Asher Yaaseh ha’Adam Otam ha’Adam ve’Hai Bahem’. Essentially, a person lives on and by their Missvot. When we do a Missvah, what we are doing is really taking the actual source of that Missvah in Shamayim and bringing it down to this world. This Missvah gives off a certain light that envelopes us. The source of this light is none other than the Kedushah of HaShem; the Missvah simply creates the bond between the two. When we do a Missvah, we literally become holier. This is why we say ‘Asher Kideshanu be’Missvotav ve’Sivanu’ in a berakha before we do a Missvah; HaShem surrounds us in his Kedushah when we do His Missvot, and in this way, we are directly connected to Him. We survive based on the Kedushah we attain from the Missvot we do. That is why the pasuk tells us, You Will be Holy, Because I, HaShem am Holy. The Kedushah we are getting is actually HaShem’s Kedushah which is brought down to this world.
We learn, Kol HaMekadesh Assmo mi’le’Mata, Makdishin Oto mi’le’Maala. One who sanctifies himself from the world below, by doing Missvot, They sanctify him from the World Above, from the actual source of the Missva, the Kedushah of HaShem!
Be’Ezrat HaShem may we all develop the intuition to actively Mekadesh ourselves every single moment of our lives, not only by giving up what is not good but by doing such abundance of good that we should no longer even have a desire to be amidst the bad. May the Kedushah that we bring to this world through our Missvot envelope us and sustain us and may we only continue to elevate our levels of Kedushah each day!
Wishing everybody a Shabbat Shalom Kadosh u’Mevorakh!