SALT - Yom Ha-Zikaron - Wednesday, 3 Iyar 5778 - April 18, 2018

  • Rav David Silverberg
            Parashat Kedoshim begins with the command, “You shall be sacred, for I, the Lord your God, am sacred.”  Rashi, citing Torat Kohanim, understands that this command refers to “perishut” – restraint and abstention.  As the Ramban famously explains, we are to emulate God’s “sanctity” by moderating our physical indulgence, whereby we resemble – albeit to a miniscule extent – God’s entirely nonphysical essence.  We introduce Godly sanctity into our lives by exercising restraint over our physical drives, satisfying them in moderation rather than freely indulging as much as we naturally and instinctively desire.
            Ketav Sofer adds further insight into the command of “kedoshim tiheyu” by noting the conclusion of this verse – “for I, the Lord your God, am sacred.”  Rather than state simply that we should follow the example of sanctity set by God, the Torah here commands following the example set by “the Lord your God.”  The emphasis on the fact that the Almighty is “your God,” Ketav Sofer explains, points to His intimate involvement in our lives despite His qualitatively different level of sanctity.  Although God is infinitely greater and holier than even the greatest and holiest human being, He is nevertheless “our God,” directly and closely involved in all our affairs.  Our lowliness in relation to God does not prevent Him from caring about us, providing our needs, protecting us, and taking interest in us.  And this, too, is a crucial component of the command of “kedoshim tiheyu.”  Our quest for sanctity, Ketav Sofer comments, must not lead us to become disinterested in those who do not aspire to sanctity.  Our attainment of kedusha must not result in our dissociation from those who have not accomplished the same.  Just as the Almighty is “our God” – actively and directly involved in and concerned about our lives – despite His infinitely higher level of sanctity, we, too, must be involved with and concerned about others even if we feel we have achieved a far higher stature of kedusha than they. 
            Too often, we associate “kedusha” with disengagement and aloofness, and assume that to be “holy” means to be incapable of relating to or involving oneself with those who aren’t.  Ketav Sofer reminds us that to the contrary, as the command to be “holy” is formulated as a command to emulate God’s “holiness,” we may conclude that the Torah’s conception of “holiness” is one that leads to greater interaction with and interest in other people, not less.  The model of kedusha to which we must aspire is one which entails building close relationships with people regardless of their level of kedusha, just as God seeks a close relationship with us despite our infinitely lower level of kedusha.