Former shaliach in Memphis (2002-3) and London (2007-9)
Currently Ram at the Yeshiva High School in Natzeret Illit
Kedusha – Meeting Hashem with Every Step
A few years ago, before going on Shlichut in a Kollel in London, I managed to convince Rav Binyamin Tabori, my soon to be Rosh Kollel, to teach us Masechet Zevachim throughout the next year. Having never before learned Seder Kodashim, this was a fascinating experience I have since had the privilege to expand upon on various occasions.
This is why when studying Parashat Kedoshim I’d expect to be more at home with the concepts appearing there. It would only make sense that Parashat Kedoshim and Seder Kodasim would discuss similar topics. Seder Kodashim discusses sacrifices and Beit Hamikdash and therefore so should the Parashah.
So when the Torah tells us to be Kedoshim and then instead of discussing sacrifices starts talking about fearing ones parents, keeping Shabbat, not lying, not cheating and many other day to day issues, while only sprinkling a few bits of Pigul and Notar but definitely not focusing on them, this comes as a bit of a surprise. What is more interesting is that Kedusah throughout the Torah does not seem to be a concept constricted to heavenly things. On the contrary, we often find the term used in the Torah when discussing earthly issues and even sometimes the improper use of same said earthly things.
For example we have Kedushah in money – Shekel Hakodesh, Kedushah in places – Mekom Hakodesh, Kedushah in clothes – Bigdei Hakodesh albeit these are restricted to the work of the Kohanim, but we also find a Kadesh and Kdeshah who improperly use their bodies for reasons other than those which Hashem has given them or Kedushah in Kilayim where one who plants wheat or barley and the likes next to a vineyard must burn all the produce.
What all these examples have in common is the fact that they are Kadosh and are all connected to the physical world. All though our initial inclination might be to disconnect Kedushah from physicality and associate it solely with spirituality, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Even Seder Kodashim which we started with, discusses sacrificing physical elements – livestock, wheat, wine etc. – and using them to connect to Hashem. Among the nations it might be thought that to reach Kedushah one must disconnect oneself from the pleasures of the flesh but when entering the Bet Hamikdash the Kohanim are found dealing with blood and meat even to the extent where the Talmud tells us that the way for a sin to be atoned for must be through the Kohanim eating the meat of the sacrifice. In many other religions in order to be holy one must not marry. In the Jewish nation one cannot attain Kedushah without being married. The Kohen Gadol cannot work in Beit Hamikdash if he doesn’t have a wife.
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lutzato, in his book, Mesilat Yesharim, which discusses the stages one must pass in order to connect with Hashem, describes the highest level a person can reach on his own. Kedushah. Before reaching this level one might look at the physical world as an unfortunate necessity. After reaching this level the physical world becomes a catalyst for fulfilling Hashem’s will. One could eat and drink as a way to connect with Hashem. This is by no means an easy task. Most people don’t attain it. The truth is most people don’t even get so far as to reach the chapter discussing it while learning the book. In order to reach this level one must first be willing to go through all the other stages which limit ones enjoyment of the physical aspects of this world in order to then meet them on the other side, not as enjoyment for the sake of my body but rather enjoy them as a way to connect with Hashem.
The term Kodesh Kodashim when describing sacrifices is used by the Torah (though not in the Talmud) only while eating them. What I find more interesting is that the term is not used to describe two Korbanot. The Olah (totally burnt offering) and the Shelamim (an offering usually brought when someone wanted to eat but still bring a sacrifice) are both not called Kodesh Kodashim. I believe one of the things this may be trying to tell us is that ideally, high Kedushah is not attained by eating for the sake of eating, even if it’s a Korban (Shelamim) nor by completely alienating ourselves from the eating of our Korban (Olah). It is attained by eating for the sake of atoning for our sins. The Kohanim eat and the owner is atoned for.
Returning to Parashat Kedoshim, there is more than one way to live a Jewish life style. One can look at the Mitzvot as a way to increase his piety or as a type of manual to make sure he doesn’t destroy the machine Hashem has created for him in this world. Or we could attempt to be Kedoshim and use these same commandments and everything else we encounter as a means to bring the world closer to Hashem.