Rabbi Dr. Meir Tamari
It is written, “Speak to the entire community of Bnei Yisrael” (Vayikra
19; 2). “These words in Vayikrah were said bekahal” –Rashi. “This is
because most of the principal things of Torah are presented here” (Sifrah).
The great Admor Menachem Mendel of Kotsk asked how ordinary people could
be holy. He answered that as the verse was said to Klal Yisrael, we can
be holy through our belonging to the holy nation of Israel. The greater
the identification of the individual with that Klal, the greater the
holiness that person can achieve. The converse is also so, so that the
more one distances oneself from Klal Yisrael, the weaker is ones kedushah.
This is shown by the period of Serfirat H’Omer, which precedes Shavuot and
Matan Torah. The word “omer” is connected to gathering that which is
separate, disparate and individual, together into one unit or one group.
It was only the ingathering of all the Jews that made it possible for them
to receive the Torah. They camped before Har Sinai as one person, in order
to be a Holy Nation and a Mamlechet Kohanim. We learn from the Midrash
that if one of them would have been missing, it would have been impossible
to give Israel the Torah. Sforno explains the verse “And the people all
answered Moshe together, to teach us that all of us together complete that
which was expected”. That is why these days of Sefirah obligate each and
every one of us to be scrupulous in their relationship to others and to
separate ourselves from all types of jealousy and hatred. Rather, we
should concentrate on filling our hearts with Ahavat Yisrael.
This is like the 248 positive mitzvot which sanctify the 248 organs of the
body. If one of the mitzvot is missing, it’s as though one of the organs
of the body are not included in the sanctity. Although, there are some
mitzvot that do not apply in our days, while others only apply to Kohanim
or to a king, and yet others only at certain times, Klal Yiosrael is able
to weld all into a unity
[The Master, Simcha Bunem, of Physcha was asked why we were given so many
mitzvot. It would have been better if we would have been given a few
mitzvot which we would keep with greater intensity and devotion. He
answered that Reuven is able to keep some mitzvot which others can not
keep; Shimon is able to keep yet others, while Levi yet others. So,
together Israel would keep all the many mitvot.]
“Because I the Lord your G-d am Holy” (Vayikrah 19:1)
In Torat Kohanim it is written: “You shall be Holy, be separate”. There is
a difference between one who is pure and one who is holy, and the Torah
commanded us to be holy. The pure people are those who separate themselves
from evil actions and wrongdoing, whereas “holy” means to disregard
anything which is wrong and evil. That is why our holiness is to sanctify
even those actions and things that are permitted to us.
This distinction between “pure” and “holy” is the distinction between the
sanctification of actions and the sanctification of thought. Through the
sanctification of thought one becomes holy. However, the Admor Menachem
Mendel of Kotzk questioned how mortals, born of man and woman, can achieve
holiness, as while they can prevent themselves from doing impure actions,
it is almost impossible for them to remove their thoughts from evil and
wrongdoing. He answered that our verse tells us that this can be done,
because G-d is Holy. Not only is it an obligation on us to be Holy, but it
is also a promise that if we will consecrate ourselves to imitate Him in
all our thoughts and actions, then we too can be Holy.
“Everyday the Kadosh Barukh Hu is crowned with three Holinesses. What does
He do? One He places on His head and the other two He places on the head
of Israel “(Midrash Rabbah, Vayikrah chapter 24) The Targum translates the
thrice mentioned Kadosh (Iasiah 6:3) as “Holy in the most exalted heavens,
the dwelling place of His Presence, Holy on earth the product of His
strength and Holy for ever and ever”. We need to understand what new
insight the Targum gave us by adding ‘the product of His strength’. We can
understand this if we examine the gevurot which we say in the Shemoneh
Esrei. They describe how G-d is busy in very material and mundane things
like raising the fallen ones, curing the sick, and freeing the prisoners.
We could imagine that it is not fitting for G-d, who is so holy, to busy
himself with such mundane and material affairs. However, in our prayers,
these gevurot are followed by Ha El HaKadosh; the holy G-d. From this we
learn that even when He is engaged in the mundane and material, He remains
Holy. Israel, too, although engaged in things of this world and while they
busy themselves with the material and mundane, they remain holy. For that
reason, the Targum added “The product of His strength”.
Shem Mi Shmuel, 5,670; 5,672.
Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Meir Tamari and Torah.org.
Dr. Tamari is a renowned economist, Jewish scholar, and founder of the Center For Business Ethics (www.besr.org) in Jerusalem.