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Torah Thoughts for Teens - YDN Middle School Schmuez "Holiness Is . . ." audio file
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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YDN Middle School Schmuez

Holiness is ….

The second Rashi in Parshas Kedoshim addresses a fundamental question – how does one define kedusha (holiness)?

Since the Torah charges us, “You shall be holy since I, Hashem, am holy,” (Vayikrah 19:2), it is only natural for Rashi to try and quantify the nebulous concept of “holiness.”

Rashi notes that holiness is basically defined as the absence of sin overall, and in particular, sins related to arayos (illicit relationships). Thus holiness can be understood to be the polar opposite of tumah (impurity).

This would explain the placement of Parshas Kedoshim following an exhaustive listing of foods and relationships that the Torah forbids in the previous Parshiyos. In other words, the Torah is telling us to refrain from the aveiros previously mentioned and you will attain holiness.

Ramban, on the other hand, challenges us all with a more elevated description of kedusha. He introduces the concept of “perishus” (being measured or modest) and explains that this is the essence of kedusha.

Thus the Torah raises the bar above the content of the past few parshiyos and informs us that is it not sufficient to simply refrain from the wrongdoings noted previously. Our mission in life is to live modestly – feeding our souls and not only our bodies.

Ramban’s approach would answer the question a student asked me many years ago, “How could Hashem tell us to be holy because He is holy? That’s not fair! He is HASHEM after all? How can He expect us to be like Him?”

The answer is that Hashem is charging us to be just a little bit like Him – meaning to partake a bit less in this finite physical world and a bit more in His infinite world of kedusha

Sadly, we are all too often encountered by people presenting a distorted notion of kedusha where their holiness is measured by how much they preoccupy themselves with the religious observance of others.

Genuine holiness is when we turn inward and reflect upon ways to connect to Hashem’s infinite holiness.

P.S. This thought came to me while observing the kedusha of Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky’s home and actions yesterday. Click here for more on this.

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