For I am HASHEM your G-d, and you shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, because I am holy, and you shall not defile yourselves through any creeping creature that crawls on the ground. (Vayikra 11:44)
For I am HASHEM your G-d: Just as I am Holy, I am HASHEM your G-d, so too you shall make yourselves holy (i.e.) sanctify yourselves below on earth. …and be holy: before Me, for I shall make you holy in the World to Come. (Rashi)
In the context of this call for holiness the Chumash is speaking of refraining from disgusting foods. How does that express holiness? How does that make us holy? What is holiness? How can we define it in pedestrian terms?
This is a scene from more than 36 years. I can recall it now like it happened this morning. I just exited the Yeshiva where I was teaching English. My main classroom management tool was to have candy in each pocket. As I approached the street I noticed a frightening scene. Two little boys were on the other side of a crazy busy intersection waiting to cross. They 6 or 7 years old and I recognized one of them to be the young son of one of my Rebbeim. I couldn’t let these kids cross by themselves.
I signaled to them to wait for me. I ran across the street and took each one by the hand with a candy in each hand. When we got to the other side of the street one boy thanked me and left with the candy in hand and smile on his face.
Tzvi Elimelech, my Rabbi’s son asked me, “What’s the Heksher?” I took the two clear cellophane bags out of my pocket. Both tops were already removed. I told him they we either Paskesz or Blooms and I bought them both at the one Kosher store in Monsey at that time, Nagels. Everybody goes there even his parents. He stood there and with perfect poise, handed me the candy.
He politely thanked me and proceeded to happily skip home. I was stunned. He knew me! I was just giving these candies out in the Yeshiva across the street. Nobody questioned me there. What a great beginning for a future Ben Torah.
That’s holiness! Effortless self control, beyond the battle ground where the elements are controlling and tempting us, to be that free and able to easily and happily say “No!” That’s a portrait of a kid with a candy! How many other battle grounds with the “permissible” do we “adults” struggle with daily?!
This is excerpted from a newsletter Doresh L’Tzion: “The Mashgiach of Lakewood, R’ Nosson Wachtfogel zt”l. related: I heard from Maran R’ Aharon Kotler zt”l that he had a tradition passed down from the Chofetz Chaim that the “Last Battle” will be the “Beginning of the Geulah”, and that a true Ben Torah who will be completely disconnected from the nations will not be dominated over. In this vein, the Mashgiach said that he himself has a tradition handed down from one person to another from R’Yehoshua Leib Diskin zt”l, the Seraph of Brisk, that “In the Last Battle before the coming of Moshiach all the Ehrl- iche Yidden will be saved”. What is the definition of “Ehrliche Yidden”? Those who are separated from the nations! He explained that this is not referring to being one of the Thirty-Six Hidden Tzaddikim, but rather about whoever separates himself from the customs of the nations and has no connection to their culture, their manner of dressing, their newspapers or music or books, and is completely disassociated from them – then to him Hakadosh Boruch Hu says, “You are Mine!” And he is under a completely different authority and there is no dominion over him!””
Holiness is first claiming dominion over one’s self! The Torah invites us all and declares us capable of Being His!