ABOVE THE LAW
Let us take a look at Mr. Schwartzgoldstein for just one moment. At first glance, it appears that Mr. Schwartzgoldstein is a fully Torah observant Jew. He eats only kosher food; yet most of the time eats to a point of gluttony.
Let us take a look at Mr. Schwartzgoldstein for just one moment. At first glance, it appears that Mr. Schwartzgoldstein is a fully Torah observant Jew. He eats only kosher food; yet most of the time eats to a point of gluttony. He never does any of the prohibited activities on Shabbat; yet most of his Shabbat dialogue revolves around the latest Braves stats. He prays three times a day; yet rarely gives much thought to the words that he is saying. Mr. Schwartzgoldstein is a fully observant Jew, right? Not according to this week's Torah portion.
At the beginning of this week's second Torah portion, the Torah tells us "kedoshim tehiyu be holy." How does a Jew fulfill this unusual commandment? We can look to the Ramban, one of the leading Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, for answers.
The Ramban first defines the words kedoshim tehiyu as "be separate." He goes on to explain that without this commandment it would be completely possible to be a fully observant Jew and still indulge in many desires. The Ramban labels such a person as a detestable person within the bounds of the Torah. Yet, this mitzvah teaches us that we are to separate ourselves from such behaviors and be holy.
The Ramban goes on to explain that we learn from this mitzvah that we should go above the letter of the law in our Torah observance. For example, it is perfectly fine to go to a kosher all-you-can-eat establishment, but it would be quite gluttonous to indulge oneself in a dozen portions of everything from the all-you-can-eat bar. So, even though Mr. Schwartzgoldstein might be observing most of the Torah, his neglecting of the mitzvah of kedoshim tehiyu leaves him short in his Torah observance.
With this mitzvah, the Torah teaches us that there is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, and we are obligated to fulfill both. We cannot properly have one without the other. May this period of Sefirat HaOmer, when we count the days from when the Jews left the abyss of Egypt on Passover until that magnificent day when they received the holy Torah on Shavuot, be a time of strengthening ourselves in both the letter and the spirit of the law.
Pinchas Landis, a native Atlantan, is studying at Yeshivat Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem.
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