By Rabbi Yonah Burr
דבר אל כל עדת בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם קדשים תהיו כי קדוש אני ד' אלקיכם
“Speak to the entire congregation of Bnei Yisroel, and say to them ‘BE HOLY’ for I, Hashem your G-d, am Holy.”
What exactly does the Mitzva ‘to be holy’ require of us, and how does one fulfill it? How does one go about making themselves holy and how can I truly sanctify myself?
The Meforshim offer various interpretations, none of which are mutually exclusive, but rather complement each other.
Rashi explains this to be restating the prohibition of immorality already expressed in the previous parsha; ‘for abstention of immoral acts is associated with holiness’. One who musters the strength to rise above his baser nature to serve Hashem, truly sanctifies himself. One who guards his home from allowing foreign influences from entering, has truly sanctified his home. And one who lives his life with a higher purpose has truly sanctified his life. Life is not merely the pursuit of hedonistic pleasure, but is the ability rise above it. This discipline, infuses a person with sanctity.
Ramban explains, that theoretically, one can live a life according to the ‘letter of the law’; eating Kosher, keeping Shabbos, etc. But within the technical framework of Halacha, can remain the same person that he was to begin with. It is merely a list of ‘does, and don’ts’. Explains Ramban, that the Torah is giving us a direction; the mitzvos were meant to elevate us and to make us into more refined, spiritual people. We should look at the mitzvos as a guide for what Hashem wants of us, and allow the world view of the Torah to transform us and permeate our very being. ‘Be Holy’, then, is a mitzva to allow the Torah to change us and elevate us.
Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l explains, that the Mitzva ‘to be Holy’ is setting a mindset on the way we approach the fulfillment of mitzvos; the mitzvos that we have were given to us because of our intrinsic holiness; just as a Kohen has special requirements meant to preserve his kedusha, so too, the Jewish People in general were given the Torah and Mitzvos by virtue of the kedusha that is already inside each and every one of us. We have the capacity to be close to Hashem, and in order to facilitate that, Hashem gave us His special gift of the Torah.
The Days of Sefira were designated as a time to introspect and internalize the lessons we learned when we left Mitzrayim; To reach the level that we are ready and can appreciate the gift that the Torah is.
How fortunate we are that we have an intrinsic kedusha waiting to be nurtured and brought out. By implementing self-discipline, and infusing our life with meaning, allowing the Torah to transform us, and cultivating the inherent kedusha that we all have, we can truly fulfill what Hashem has in mind for us.
We are all going through an unprecedented time; a time of uncertainty, anxiety, and social isolation. While we cannot profess to understand the reason, we certainly can see the opportunity; it is a time where there is little to do but introspect, and reevaluate our priorities and reset our values. What a perfect time to get a little closer to ‘Being Holy’!
May we all merit the true salvation, and see the coming of Moshiach speedily in our day!