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SENSITIVE SOIL

by Jonathan Fisher    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"You shall be holy, for I, Hashem your G-d, am holy" (Leviticus 19:2).

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"You shall be holy, for I, Hashem your G-d, am holy" (Leviticus 19:2).

If one were to summarize the Torah into a few words, perhaps the above verse would be used. Although we know this is an important theme, let us try to understand what it really means. After this verse which commands holiness, the Torah enumerates many laws of morality. The topics range from sexual morality to equality in judgement, from the prohibition of idol worship to leaving food for the poor. After the Torah makes the pronouncement to be holy, it then explains how this should be done.

Although this might explain the "how" to be holy, now we need to comprehend the "why." There is both a material and spiritual reasoning for being holy. The material reason is explained clearly at the end of this week's Torah portion. "Do not follow the traditions of the nation that I expel from before you, for they did all of these things and I was disgusted with them. I said to you: You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to posses it, a land flowing with milk and honey - I am Hashem your G-d, who has set you apart from the nations" (ibid. 20:23,24). Hashem has given us the land of Israel as an inheritance, and wants us to live there. But the land of Israel is unique. It will not tolerate a sinful nation, and the land will spit them out like a watermelon seed in the summertime. For the Children of Israel to reside in their land, they must remain moral and just, holy in the eyes of Hashem.

The spiritual reasoning for why we should be holy is eluded to in the original verse. Why should you be holy? "For I, Hashem your G-d, am holy." Hashem created us in His image, and at the same time provided us free will to choose our path in life. We have been granted the opportunity to emulate His ways, in order to build a stronger connection to Him. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, leader of 19th century German Jewry, explains that kedushah (holiness) is having a mastery over all of one's natural tendencies, to use them for the will of Hashem. The highest level a person can reach is to use these tendencies in the proper manner.

Mastery over one's inclinations does not mean to hinder or do away with them. Any natural propensity is neither good nor evil in itself. These powers are given to Man to give him the ability to accomplish the will of G-d. The Torah gives us positive aims and negative limits, showing us how to use our inclinations for the will of Hashem.

Holiness is not acquired by just the performance of morality to the letter of the law, but rather it is attained when one uses all of his tendencies for the service of Hashem and goes beyond the letter of the law. Since every person has been granted different gifts from the Creator, we can all serve Hashem in our own unique way. By using one's talents and inclinations to serve Hashem, a person builds a stronger spiritual connection and ultimately attains holiness.

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Jonathan Fisher, a graduate of Yeshiva Atlanta, is studying at Yeshiva University's Gruss Kollel in Jerusalem.

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