Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Does My Holiness Have Holes in it?

 Parshas Kedoshim begins with a commandment for us to be holy, just like Hashem is holy.
What is holiness? What does it mean to be a person of sanctity?
Is holiness kissing every mezuzah within arms distance throughout your day?
Maybe the Holiness Award goes to he who can shuckle the most wildly, both frontward and backward and still maintain his balance.
Perhaps a person of sanctity is one who carries a magnifying glass around his neck so he can be confident that each glass of water he drinks is 100% bug free.
Oh, I know- holiness means making a bonfire and burning your avoda zara sheitel. Or better yet, if you wanna be one of even greater holiness, go pick a sheitel store of  your choice, and burn it down to the ground! C'mon- DO THE WORK OF THE LORD!
I'm afraid not, my friends. Perhaps we should take a close look at the words in the p'sukim to help us understand what it means to be a truly holy person.
The very first sentence written, after telling us to be holy, is not, surprisingly,  'shmoneh esrai should take a minimum of 25 minutes', but it's  'HONOR YOUR PARENTS'. Then, the verses continue with a large variety of mitzvos- bein adam l'chaveiro, between man and his friend. Yes, there are two or three commandments that are bein adam laMakom, between man and G-d, but the overwhelming majority seem to be focused on the proper behavior patterns among human beings.
In order to bring Kedusha, holiness, into the world, we need to exercises the use of our neshama, soul. Let's try to understand this by taking a good look at your neighborhood cat. Or, maybe at your neighborhood dog. I'm lucky- on my street, I have more dogs than people, so visualizing the scenerio is easy. Could those animals ever be holy? I don't think so. An animal behaves on impulse. He acts based on his instincts. There are absolutely no thoughts activating his actions. He just does what his nature leads him to do. When a cougar attacks someone and kills them, he's behaving according to his nature. Free choice does not exist.
True holiness and sanctity is brought about by an action as a result of a thought process. Not by simply following impulses, but by fighting for the truth, and by making a clear decision to do something right. Because every time we decide in the affirmative and therefore do a positive action, we become holier and bring holiness into the world.
Now, of course there's kedusha in mitzvos that are bein adam laMakom. Plenty of it. Those are also human acts that depend on the spiritual side of a person. But the ultimate  in sanctity is dependent on our behavior in the earthly, worldly activities. On channeling our impulses and choosing correctly.
You can take every chumra you've ever heard of upon yourself, and fast every other day, and buy only Glatt kosher ice cream and cholov yisrael meat... but while waiting on line for it you're blabbing loshon horah on your cell phone with one hand, and with the other, you're elbowing [hard!] the guy who took your parking spot, and you're giving the death stare to the lady in front of you because she took the last fat-free carb-free taste-free potato knish...well that's a bit oxymoronic, dontcha think?
So, the chidush over here is that who we really are, and how we rank on our level of spirituality, is based on our behaviors bein adam l'chaveiro. How we speak to others, and how we respect them. Dealing fairly with others, feeling and showing care and concern, judging favorably, giving tzedakah, giving our parents the proper honor and respect that they deserve, etc... That's how we measure true holiness. That's how we become sanctified people.
So, for all of you out there who are trying to change the world, here's an idea. Let's try forgiving someone who wronged us and not bearing a grudge or not taking revenge, and watch the world transform into one of true holiness. 
"A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices".