Parshas Kedoshim 5757

Jewish Holiness


In the first verse of the Parsha Hashem tells us to be holy "because I am holy." Both the Midrash and the Holy Zohar comment that this is not just a command, but a promise. Nevertheless, how can a mere flesh and blood person sanctify himself with Hashems Holiness? The answer is...because I am Holy, so shall you be Holy.
The Sfas Emes, the 2nd Gerrer Rebbe has a wonderful insight into this idea. Hashem took us out of the bondage of Egypt, and formed a special relationship with us at Mount Sinai saying, "I am the Lord your God." Nevertheless. we need to ask, what is so special about that. Cannot everything in creation make the same statement? The answer is from our verse. Be Holy because I am Holy. Your Holiness is different. It is a part of me, and therefore even in this physical world you can be truly Holy.


You Shall Fear Your Mother and Your Father

The Parsha continues in the next verse to give us the command of fearing our Parents. (This is different than to the command to honor them.) The Holy Zohar comments,"Who is the Father, our Father in Heaven." Rashi , in his commentary, brings for us the Gemarra in Kiddushin which says on this verse that having fear or awe for you father is expressed by not sitting in his place. The Sfas Emes elucidates that we must surely understand that everything we have is from Hashem. Therefore we mustn't sit in his place!!


". . . be Holy because I am Holy...:. (Vayikra 19:2)

In the first verse of the Parsha Hashem tells us to be holy "because I am holy." Both the Midrash and the Holy Zohar probe into this verse asking, "How can a mere flesh and blood person sanctify himself with Hashem's Holiness?"

Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev gives us a one of his characteristically beautiful insights. In truth it is impossible for us to achieve Hashem's Holiness. The reason why? Whenever a Jew sanctifies himself to Hashem through the Torah and its commandments, he makes a "Kiddush Hashem", a sanctification of Hashem's name. The more we make ourselves, Holy, the more Hashem becomes Holy. Therefore it is indeed impossible for our Holiness to be like His!


A Story: After WWII, the Poles decided to build a highway through an old Jewish cemetery. The local Burial Society had to remove all the bones to a new resting place. To their amazement, they found one body that had not decomposed! It is considered a sign of great righteousness. But even more to their wonderment, he was buried in the robes of a priest!! They quickly made enquiries among the elders of the town, and this is the story that was revealed.

Reb Naftali was the Gabbai Tzedakah of the town. He was well respected and he would always distribute the funds fairly. One day, after he had already collected quite a sum of money for a dire emergency, a man knocked on his door. "Naftali, please you must help, I have nowhere else to turn", he begged. The man, already burdened by the expenses of a large family had a child who was very ill, and the medical bills were putting the family under undue financial distress. Naftali went out to collect again; and people helped, but not like the first time. He returned home exhausted, but satisfied that he had done the right thing.

Then there was a knock on the door again. A man whose roof had caved in on his house was in the doorway. The family of 10 souls was homeless. Naftali couldn't go around collecting three times in one day...but he did. He went to beseech the young son of a wealthy merchant who was entertaining some of his friends at the local pub.

"Don't tell me that you are collecting again", he screamed in disbelief. They all began to ridicule Naftali mercilessly. Suddenly, the young man had an idea. "Naftali, we will give you the entire amount of 20 zlotys that you need. All you have to do is to walk through the main street of town wearing priests robes." Naftali agreed. They all walked behind him singing and hooting. Other townspeople, seeing Naftali, shouted curses and pelted him with eggs. But he got the 20 zlotys, plus an extra 20 so that he shouldn't have to go collecting again that day.

Naftali went home a broken man. He threw the priest's robes in the back of his closet and collapsed into bed.

A year later, the Divrei Chayim, Rebbe Chayim of Sanz passed through that same town. As he was passing the house where Naftali lived he exclaimed, "I smell the fragrance of Gan Eden (Paradise) here." They went into the house and began to question Naftali, what did he ever do that would cause the fragrance of Gan Eden to descend upon his house. Naftali remembered the incident of the priest's robes.

Rebbe Chayim of Sanz commanded the Burial Society that when when Naftali's time comes, he should be buried in those same priests robes. The angels of destuction will not dare to touch him.

Short Biography: Rebbi Chayim of Sanz, (1797-1876), is known as one of the most outstanding Torah scholars of recent generations. His demand for a high level of scholarship by the Chassidim is a hallmark of Sanz even today. It is said that when he prayed, even the most uninitiated could see the light radiating from him. He was a champion of the poor and established many organizations to relieve them of their poverty. The leaders of several of today's Chassidic dynasties trace their roots to Sanz.


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