This week's Torah portion begins with the divine exhortation of kedoshim te'heyu, that the Jewish people be holy and sanctified. It is interesting to note the strange language used in the introductory sentence to this fundamental commandment.
This week's Torah portion begins with the divine exhortation of kedoshim te'heyu, that the Jewish people be holy and sanctified. It is interesting to note the strange language used in the introductory sentence to this fundamental commandment. The Torah states that Hashem commanded Moses, "Speak to the entire nation of Israel and say to them. . . ." Why does Moses need to be specifically informed that this mitzvah must be repeated to the "entire nation of Israel"? What is so unique about this mitzvah of kedoshim te'heyu, when compared to the rest of the laws in the Torah, that it deserves special attention?
Rabbi Yaakov Naiman, a 20th century educator of Torah ethics in Israel, explains in his book Darchei Mussar that the Torah here is attempting to avoid an all too common misunderstanding that people have regarding their potentially profound relationship with Hashem. A person could have easily assumed, as do many of the other religions of the world, that the ability to fulfill the mitzvah of kedoshim te'heyu and live a life complete with kedusha, sanctity, is reserved only for the most scholarly and respected members of the community. One may have thought that having the title "rabbi" attached to his name is a prerequisite to creating a special relationship with Hashem, or perhaps that holiness can only be achieved through complete abstention from the physical. The Torah therefore stresses that this section must be taught to the entire nation of Israel, every member without exception. The mitzvah of kedoshim te'heyu, to live a life of sanctity, applies to and can be fulfilled by everyone. The ensuing mitzvot delineated in the Torah portion through which one can achieve kedusha include basic and fundamental commandments which provide fulfillment and are attainable by everyone. One may be surprised to find that the list is not the expected catalogue of incredibly strenuous and difficult requirements which can be met only by superhuman beings or angels. By keeping even the simplest mitzvot every Jew can achieve spirituality.
This point is illustrated beautifully by the basic formula recited in many blessings upon fulfilling various mitzvot: "asher kideshanu bemitzvotav -- that Hashem sanctified us with His commandments." By instituting such a formula to be recited daily, the rabbis insured that the concept taught by the first verses of Parshat Kedoshim, namely that holiness can be achieved by all members of the community, would not be forgotten. With this important message, the Torah makes it incumbent upon every individual to continuously introspect and understand his potential in the quest for holiness.
Michael Alterman, who hails from Atlanta and is a graduate of Yeshiva Atlanta, is currently a sophomore at Yeshiva University in New York.
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