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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Yonah Burr

Shemini: The Root of Holiness

כי אני ד' אלקיכם והתקדשתם והייתם קדשים כי קדוש אני 

“For I am Hashem your G-d – you shall sanctify yourselves and you will be holy for I am holy”

Rashi explains, ‘just as I am holy, for I am Hashem your G-d, so shall you sanctify yourselves below in this world; and you will be holy- because I will sanctify you from above and in the next world’.

Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato z”l, known as the ‘Ramchal’ wrote a virtual handbook mapping out the proper path to Avodas Hashem. He named his sefer ,מסילת ישרים  known as ‘The Path of the Just’. The sefer was written in clear, concise  classical Hebrew, and is a pleasure to read; however, it is almost deceptively simple. The Vilna Gaon is quoted as saying that there is not one extra word in the entire sefer; and that he would walk the length and breadth of the continent to learn by the feet of the Ramchal. And Rav Elya Lapion z”l states, that those in the know realize that the wording of the sefer corresponds to both the revealed and hidden secrets of the Torah. While these lofty statements are above our comprehension, suffice it to say that we can definitely glean important insights from the holy words of the Ramchal. 

"יסוד החסידות ושורש העבודה התמימה הוא שיתברר ויתאמת אצל האדם מה חובתו בעולמו ולמה צריך שישים מבטו ומגמתו בכל אשר הוא עמל כל ימי חייו" 

“The foundation of piety and the root of all service [of Hashem] is having the perfect clarity of the true obligation of man in this world, and towards what goals one should aspire to all the days of one’s life”.

Asks Rav Elya Lopian: why does the Ramchal describe piety as having a foundation, while describing the service of Hashem as having a ‘root’? what can we learn from this nuance of the Ramchal?

Explains Rav Elya: a foundation requires digging to the bedrock; and if not, at least establishing the area with strong stone or cement. For the entire building rests on the foundation, and if that is weak, the entire structure will collapse. A root on the other hand, is the exact opposite. It  requires soft soil; the seed is planted, and the roots sprout and grow. The vitality of the tree comes naturally, from within, with very little imput from the outside. And the root grows along with the tree, supporting it, and sustaining it.  Of course, the farmer needs to see that the sapling is supported and is growing straight, but the actual growth comes from within. 

Our Avodah, is our Torah learning and our fulfillment of Mitzvos. This service is like a tree, that has roots; the initial planting is ours, but the mitzvos take root in our Neshama, and the Kedusha grows naturally. We do not need to do anything other than serving Hashem, and Hashem promises to sanctify us eternally. The kedusha of the Torah grows within us, and transforms and uplifts us automatically. 

Piety, is the consistent building and climbing the rungs of growth; this is compared to a building; something that needs to be done deliberately and consistently, and requires a strong, maintained foundation. Climbing ever higher in our commitment and our level of observance. This is the edifice that we create through our own growth. Thus, our complete service of Hashem consists of two parts: The Kedusha that grows within us from the root of the mitzvos that we perform, and the building and planning that we do to grow from level to level. 

 May we indeed merit the everlasting holiness promised by Hashem, and continuously strive to reach our full potential! 

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

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