Why Is this Portion Different From All Other Portions?
These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape # 95, The Mezonos Roll: Does It Exist? Good Shabbos!
“And G-d spoke to Moses saying: ‘Speak to the entire Community of Israel and tell them You must be Holy, for I the L-rd your G-d am Holy.'” [Vayikra 19:1-2].
The Medrash comments on this pasuk [verse], that it was said “be’Hakhel,” namely, it was said to all the Jewish people together. In contrast, most of the Torah was taught to Moshe, who taught it to Aharon, who taught to his sons, who taught to the Elders, etc., etc. However, Moshe taught this parsha in everyone’s presence.
Why is this parsha different? The Medrash answers that this parsha is different because most of the fundamentals of Torah are dependent on this parsha, called “Kedoshim Teheyu — You shall be Holy.”
The simple interpretation of this Medrash is that since there are so many important laws that are contained in this section, it was said in the presence of everyone.
However, perhaps the Medrash means something else. Perhaps it means that the specific command ‘You shall be Holy’ is so important, and has so many of the fundamentals of Torah dependent upon it, that this Mitzvah itself was given publicly.
According to the Ramba”n (Rav Moshe ben Nachman 1194-1270), this Mitzvah is that one which tells us how to live and act as Jews. If it would not be for this Mitzvah, a person could conceivably be a “naval b’irshus haTorah,” meaning, he could be an observant Jew, and simultaneously a glutton. He could live an obscene life within the parameters of the Torah. He could eat as much as he wants; he could indulge in all the physical pleasures of life; and it might all be ‘glatt kosher.’
If not for this mitzvah, such a person could be called a Tzadik [righteous person]. However, the Torah tells us, “You shall be Holy” — you need to abstain. You need to act with abstinence, with restraint, with holiness. Do not indulge. Do not be a glutton. That is what the mitzvah of Kedoshim Teheyu is all about. It is so vital that it had to be said to the entire nation together.
The Shemen HaTov explains that a person cannot be Holy unto himself. Even though the mitzvah is on the individual, the individual needs society’s help. If one lives in a society which is indulgent, it becomes very difficult for that individual to remain a ‘Kadosh’ [holy person].
In order to achieve “You shall be holy,” the cooperation of one’s family, of one’s city and one’s nation is required. Therefore, the parsha needed to be given to everyone together. When everyone is involved in conspicuous indulgence, it becomes almost impossible for the individual to act with restraint.
We see this very clearly in the society in which we live today. The rampant hedonism that we see today — gratifying their every whim and wish instantly — surrounds us. We live in a society that does not know what kedusha [holiness] is about. The only way we can personally achieve this mitzvah of “You shall be holy,” is if we not only work on ourselves , but we elevate and try to live among people who also share the ideal of Kedsohim Teheyu.
But it must begin with the individual. As the Chassidic Rebbe, Reb Simcha Bunim of Pshis’cha (1765-1827) is quoted as having said, when he was young he thought he could change the world. As he got older, he saw that he could not change the entire world, but at least he could change his city. As time went on, he saw that even that was beyond his grasp, but he said “I’ll at least change my neighborhood.” When he saw that that was not working, he said “I’ll at least try to change my family.” When he saw that that failed, he said, “I’ll have to try to only change myself.”
But once he succeeded in changing himself, then he saw that his family was different, his neighborhood was different, his city was different, and in a sense the entire world was different.
That is how it is with this mitzvah of “Kedoshim Tiheyu.” We cannot go it alone. We have to work on ourselves, an d then on our families, and then on our neighborhoods, and then on our societies.
This write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah Portion. The halachic topics covered for the current week’s portion in this series are:
Tape # 008 – Lifnei Ivair [Accessory to an Aveira] Tape # 009 – Prohibition Against Using a Razor
Tape # 052 – Prohibition Against Revenge
Tape # 095 – The Mezonos Roll: Does it Exist?
Tape # 143 – Inviting the Non-Observant to Your Shabbos Table
Tape # 190 – The Prohibition of Negiah
Tape # 236 – The Do’s & Don’ts of Giving Tochacha
Tape # 280 – “Lo Sa’amod Al Dam Re’echa”
Tape # 326 – Mipnei Seiva Takum: Honoring the Elderly
Tape # 370 – Deserts — Do They Require a Brocha?
Tape # 414 – Giving an Injection to One’s Father
Tape # 458 – Giving Tochacha: Private or Public?
Tape # 502 – Kissui HaDam
Tape # 546 – Treating Mitzvos with Respect
Tape # 590 – Sofaik Be’racha
Tape # 634 – The Prohibition of Hating Another Jew
Tape # 678 – Tochacha: Is Ignorance Bliss?
Tape # 722 – Stealing as a Practical Joke
Tape # 723 – Is the Kohain Always First?
Tape # 766 – Making Shiduchim Among Non-Observant
Tape # 767 – Kohain, Kaddish and Kadima
Tape # 810 – The Prohibition of Hating Another Jew
Tape # 854 – Tatoos: Totally Taboo?
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