Friday, April 25, 2014

Does My Holiness Have Holes In It?

 Parshas Kedoshim begins with the commandment for us to be holy, just like Hashem is holy.

What is holiness? What does it mean to be a person of sanctity?

Does holiness mean kissing every mezuzah within arm's 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?
Maybe it means prohibiting the internet till it just obliterates from the world! 
Or, banning exercise classes that don't limit their music to Yeshiva Boys Choir!

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.'  
Then, the verses continue with a large variety of mitzvos- bein adam l'chaveiro, between man and his friend. Yes, there are some commandments that are bein adam laMakom, between man and God, 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 exercise the use of our souls. 
You can 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 scenario 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 are 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 we 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 and cholov yisrael... 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 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?


We need to ask ourselves, "Am I holy, or am I holier than thou?"
Big difference.

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, going the extra mile for someone,  etc... That's how we measure true holiness. That's how we become sanctified people.

But we must remember an important factor. All of my actions between man and man, must still be done on God's terms, and not on my own. Because once the mitzvos become dependent on my own emotions, needs, or satisfaction, Im entering the dangerous zone of following the Torah out of convenience and not out of obligation. This leads to Selective Judasim.

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. 


Have a beautiful Shabbos,