You shall be holy, for I, Hashem your G-d, am holy.
This is a guarantee. You will be holy. You will become perfected; you will elevate yourselves. This is a certainty, because I am holy, and you are all a portion of Me. Nothing that is Me can be lost, so you cannot become lost. I am One, and you are one people. Your oneness makes me, in a certain sense, One in the human sphere.
Yet, how could this really be? Hashem’s oneness is unlike any other. Take anything else that you think is singular, unitary. Add another that is like it, and you have two! Thus, any “one” is not truly so, since its oneness, the uniqueness can theoretically vanish. This is not so in regard to Hashem, to Whom nothing, and no other, can be added. There is no tampering with, no dilution of, His oneness.
Comparing it with the oneness of the Jewish people, then, seems blasphemous. If our oneness can be added to His, then there are two!
We must therefore remember that our oneness is not additive to His, but a consequence of His. He is the totality of that oneness, and we are a portion of it.
That realization has some humbling consequences. Hence, Chazal see the last words of our pasuk as meaning, “You might think that you are like Me. Therefore, I say, ‘I am Hashem.’” You might at times look at yourself in stunned admiration: “I am a great lamdan! I devote all my time to learning!” You can turn yourself into a god that way. The Torah reminds us that everything is Elokus. It is all Him! There is nothing else. Whatever you admire in yourself that is praiseworthy – that borders on the divine – is part of His Being. It is not yours to be so proud and self-satisfied.
How is it that we can make the mistake in the first place? How can we fool ourselves into thinking that we are the chacham, rather than understand that we are looking at His Elokus? It is what Chazal call the el zor/foreign god within us. In other words, the yetzer hora. It is what blinds us, making us forget that the Elokus within us is simply a form of His Elokus. Our Elokus, disconnected from its source, becomes a foreign god.
Chazal deride the person who “forgets one matter of his learning.” They mean that the person forgets the One in his learning, and believes that the learning is his achievement. He forgets that it is all Him.
The navi said it best. “The wise man should not laud himself with his wisdom. Not the strong man with his strength; the rich man with his wealth. Only with this may one laud himself: discernment in knowing Me, for I am Hashem.” The chacham who serves Hashem with his wisdom should not think that it is his own wisdom. The strong man – who is able to quash his yetzer hora – should not look possessively at this chochmah. The rich person – the one of modest means who finds happiness in his portion – should not congratulate himself. All of those laudable attributes are His doing.
- Based on Meor Einayim, by R. Menachem Nochum of Chernobyl ↑
- Vayikra 19:2 ↑
- Vayikra Rabbah 24:9 ↑
- Tehillim 81:10 ↑
- Avos 3:8 ↑
- Yirmiyahu 9:22-23 ↑