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Posted on May 10, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

HASHEM spoke to Moshe saying, “Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them, “You shall be holy, for holy am I, HASHEM, your G-d.”” (Vayikra 19:1)

Some people get very excited when they hear about this mandate for the entire assembly of the Children of Israel to be holy. Others run and hide. They quit before they begin and understandably so. It’s a very tall order. How is it to be done not just by some but by everyone?!

I posted a sign on the wall of the teachers’ room years ago that showed a picture of a large group of people holding onto a rope and climbing a very steep slope. The caption read, “Direction! Not Perfection!” It might help to know that it’s not an “on” or “off” switch; and an “all or nothing at all” proposition, and there is nothing hypocritical about choosing an area and becoming a little bit holier every day.

Again, how is this done? How does one become holy? A friend of mine, a major educator, recently pointed out that Reb Zushe said, “After 120 years I am not going to be asked how come I was not Moshe Rabbeinu but why wasn’t I Zushe.” If we are all expected to be holy then how is that nearly sufficient?

He concluded that we are all essentially holy. Becoming holy is the same as becoming ourselves. How is that done? The Ramban defines “holiness” as being separate and removed from the influence of certain overwhelmingly intoxicating influences. Those external and foreign forces have the power to change us into something and someone we are not.

Michaelangelo was once asked how he managed to carve that magnificent statue of David out of a solid block of marble. He famously replied, “I simply carved away everything that wasn’t David!”
When Moshe was commanded to create the 2nd set of tablets he was told, “P’sal Lecha” – “Carve for yourself”. By removing the P’solos, the extra piece that cover and block the real true self is automatically revealed.

I was at a hotel program years ago and one small part of a late-night presentation by Rabbi Leibel Kellerman struck and stayed with me. He said that he was talking with a young lady, a student, who was struggling to find the right guy for marriage. He asked her, “What are you looking for?” She responded, “I am looking for someone normal!” He told her something that was for me a gigantic novelty. He said, “You and I both know that the only normal people are Gedolim and all the rest of us are suspect.”

It never occurred to me before that Gedolim are not just great people, academically and spiritually, but they are always extraordinarily normal. It matched and explained every encounter I had with people of that stature. The most impressive part was that gentle presence, and emotional availability, their openness and lack of need to impress. That simple and healthy minded holiness is most likely the foundation for all their many other accomplishments.

Every Jew is naturally holy! There is a magnet in the heart of every Jew that has an overwhelming urge to approach and merge with HASHEM. That great attraction is there. It is indestructible and immutable. It cannot be lost or taken away. So, why is it not manifest and obvious in every individual?

Imagine putting a picture, with a magnet, on the fridge. That should be a problem. The paper is so thin that the magnet and fridge bind as one resulting in the picture being attached there. Now, try to take the Sunday, weekend version of the New York Times and try to affix that with a generic magnet. It won’t work with a thousand tries. There is nothing faulty about the fridge and there is nothing wrong with the magnet. What’s the problem?!

The answer is so simple. There are too many papers hindering the hidden attraction. Those pages are preventing the magnet from doing what the magnet does best. Peel away what is unnecessary from that stack of information, misinformation, and disinformation and suddenly the magnet magically wakes up. If only we give ourselves a chance, then we too are holy.