Tuesday, May 24, 2016

525 - Kedoshim

Please Note: We will be following the order of the Parshios as they are read in Eretz Yisrael - Those in Chutz La'Aretz please keep this dvar Torah handy to enjoy next week! 

This week's parsha begins with a bit of an ambiguous commandment: "Kedoshim te'hiyu" - You shall be holy. Kadosh (the root of the word kedusha) means to be separated, so while it is clear that the Torah wants us to distance ourselves from something, the commentators differ as to exactly what the Torah intended with this mitzvah. Rashi maintains that the Torah is instructing us to distance ourselves from forbidden marital relationships. Separating oneself specifically with regard to this matter has the ability to bring a person to holiness.

The Ramban contends that the Torah is not referring to a specific topic. Rather, it is a general commandment to separate oneself. He cites Chazal who often refer to talmidei chachomim as "perushim" i.e. those who separate themselves by way of their behavior from mainstream society. In a similar vein the Torah calls upon us to be perushim.

The mitzvos of the Torah do not deal with every possible scenario. After laying down the basic precepts, the Torah gives us an all encompassing directive "You shall be holy." The Torah doesn't tell us how much one is allowed to eat nor does it limit how many women a man can marry. Thus, a person can completely indulge himself in his food and marital life and talk using inappropriate language. As the Ramban writes, "one can act in a depraved manner with the 'permission' of the Torah." Therefore, the Torah instructs us to separate ourselves and not go overboard even when the issue at hand is not one that is specifically forbidden by the Torah.

Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash, Vayikra 19:1) comments that according to the Ramban's explanation, the Torah is, in effect, instructing every Jew to act like a talmid chachom! Practically it means that each person, proportionate to his spiritual level, should limit the amount he indulges despite the fact that such indulgence was not specifically prohibited by the Torah.

As a mashal, Rav Wolbe related that shortly after the founding of the State of Israel there was a big disagreement regarding the drafting of girls into the Israeli Army. While many felt that they should share the duties of protecting the country, the Gedolim, headed by the Chazon Ish, vehemently opposed the proposal. The Chazon Ish was asked in which of the four sections of Shulchan Aruch does it say that it is prohibited for women to be drafted into the army. He responded that the prohibition is written in the fifth section of Shulchan Aruch which only talmidei chachomim have the ability to decipher.

Rav Wolbe explains that the Chazon Ish was informing the questioners that after learning the entire Torah, a talmid chachom is able to deduce how the Torah desires that we act in any given situation. Indeed, it isn't written black on white, but it is implied, and those who comprehend the Torah's viewpoint are able to interpret its message clearly. In a similar vein, Hashem gave us limited parameters and then succinctly summed up His position with a directive to "be holy." Understand how you are intended to behave and act accordingly.

Yiddishkeit is not just a checklist of do's and don'ts. Nevertheless, unfortunately that is how many relate to Judaism. What they have done is they have separated the Jewish religion from Yiddishkeit. Yiddishkeit gives expression to the spirit of the religion and it signifies a spiritually aristocratic way of life. We are to become an island of noblemen in the middle of the ocean of a degraded society. We are instructed to separate ourselves from the gentile way of life because we are different. A prince conducts himself with nobility.

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