Rabbi Michael Shtiglitz
Former Shaliach in Chicago


After discussing the kohanim’s special kedushah (holiness or sanctity), the Torah once again refers to Am Yisrael’s general kedushah:

“You shall observe My commandments and perform them; I am Hashem. You shall not desecrate My Holy Name, and I shall be sanctified amidst the Children of Israel; I am Hashem, Who sanctifies you. Who took you out of the land of Egypt, to be a God to you; I am Hashem.” (Vayikra 22:31-33)

HaKadosh Baruch H’u is repeating the commandment to Am Yisrael to keep his kedusha a commandment that we already learned about in Parshat Kedoshim. The Gemara (BT Brachot 21b) states:

“And so said Rav Adda bar Ahavah, ‘From where do we know that an individual does not recite the Kedushah [prayer]? As it is written, “And I shall be sanctified amidst the Children of Israel.” Every davarsheb’kedushah (literally, “matter of sanctity” – refers to certain prayers) should not involve less than ten men.’”

As we know, ten adult males are required to recite “every davarsheb’kedushah,” and, indeed, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 55:1) rules accordingly. Yet, why is this so?

Rav Kook z”l (Brachot I 3:40) has a wonderful answer:

“The substance of kedushah is to enable a person to ascend to the loftiness of perfection, to channel his every move – not toward his own needs – but rather for the honor and sanctity of the Master of the Universe.”

Kedushah serves to lift oneself above one’s own personal needs and to aim one’s very being to HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s Will. The Rav continues:

“And, behold, as long as a person only thinks about perfecting himself – even a spiritual perfection – this does not fall in the realm of kedushah. Kedushah is ascending to the good and the righteous in its core. And perfecting oneself derives from loving oneself…”

In order to achieve kedushah, one cannot be concerned with bettering oneself – even in spiritual terms. As long as one’s world revolves around oneself, kedushah cannot be achieved. Rather, one must use all of one’s desires, dreams, words, and actions to fulfill the Divine Will. As Rabban Gamliel teaches:

“Make His will as your will… nullify your will before His will…” (Pirkei Avot 2:4)

Rabban Gamliel entreats us to change our priorities. Instead of attempting to achieve our own personal hopes and aspirations, we must strive to fulfill Hashem’s Will in this world. But Rabban Gamliel doesn’t speak only about our actions, it’s a struggle but an understandable demand. Moreover, he tries to educate us to change our perspective and priorities to change the way we view the world. Rav Kook adds:

“The main thrust of this lofty service is to perfect the public and to grant it merit and to benefit it in every way. And one who allows this principle to guide him throughout his life is one who truly rises to kedushah, because he is not motivated by narcissism… Hence, an individual does not recite Kedushah…”

By definition, avodat Hashem means that one fulfills a Will which is greater than oneself. Thus, according to Rav Kook, ten men are needed to recite devarim sheb’kedushah, because kedushah is only revealed to a congregation. An individual can only be sanctified when he is part of a greater whole, when he frees himself from himself and becomes a “slave” to the needs of K’lal Yisrael as Rav Kook used to sign his letters “A slave to a holy nation in the holy land”.

Similarly, the Sfat Emet (Emor 5637) explains:

“‘I shall be sanctified amidst the Children of Israel’ – Chazal explained [that this means] limsor nefesh (to give one’s life) for Kiddush Hashem. This means that kedushah is specifically ‘amidst the Children of Israel’. As Chazal said, a person must always see himself as if holiness is immersed in his innards. This type of kedushah can only be sensed via mesirat nefesh…”

According to the Sfat Emet, the mitzvah of mesirat nefesh for Kiddush Hashem does not only apply during adversity – such as the Inquisition, the Holocaust, or Israel’s wars. Rather, a personal mesirat nefesh is also required in order to reveal kedushah in this world. In other words, we must negate ourselves for the sake of Klal Yisrael, and we must devote ourselves to the needs of the Jewish People.

Personal kedushah does not exist. Thus, on the day of Aharon HaKohein’s inauguration as kohein gadol, the first thing he does after bringing a korban is to lift his hands and bless the nation. In this way, he shows them that everything he has accomplished is derived from his connection with them.

Chazal uplift this idea to a higher level. As we know, this is the Shabbat before Lag BaOmer, the festival of R’ Shimon bar Yochai, who declares:

“There is no kedushah above unless there is kedushah below, as it says, ‘I shall be sanctified amidst the Children of Israel.’” (Zohar – Trumah 133)

According to R’ Shimon bar Yochai, if we do not sanctify Hashem in this world, there will not be kedushah up in the Heavens. Similarly An overwhelming Midrash it is said:

“‘And you are My witnesses – the word of Hashem – and I am God.’ (Yeshaya 43:12)) – R’ Shimon bar Yochai learned, ‘If you are My witnesses – the word of Hashem – I am God. But if you are not My witnesses, it is as if I am not God.’” (P’sikta d’Rav Kahana 12)

In these days between Yom HaAtzma’ut, and Yom Yerushalayim As we celebrate the rediscovery of the kedushah in the world after millennia of galut (exile) and the establishment of the Jewish State – which it’s only desire is to reveal the fact that “Hashem is One, and His Name is One” (Orot, page. 160) – we must heed the aforementioned p’sukim, which implore us to seek a public and general kedushah. We must rise above our own personal concerns and considerations to the community’s needs, to HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s Will, to Hashem, and to His Goodness. If we know how to ascend, we will know how to detach ourselves from the se’or sheb’isah (literally, “the leavening in the dough” – refers to the yetzer hara), which prevents us from fulfilling Hashem’s Will, after we already got rid of the other preventing factor from fulfilling Hashem’s Will, our subjugation to the nations. (TB Brachot 17a). then we will all be privileged to witness Hashem’s return to Tzion, as “the Torah goes forth from Tzion and the word of Hashem from Yerushalayim”.

Shabbat Shalom!