Friday, May 02, 2008

The Far Side... remember back in school when you or you and a group of friends would get into trouble?

(Yeah, me neither…but apparently this happened to “other” people from time to time)

So anyway…there would always be instances where what you did “wrong” (the use of “you” here is in the abstract, of course) was not exactly against the rules at large, or outside the bounds of the strict rules of Judaism.

It was at these times that the authoritative figure would trot out that favorite rebuke used by rebbeim, mashgichim, teachers and principles since time immemorial…KEDOSHIM TEHIYU!!!

Yes, this week we read the parsha containing the great “get out of jail free” card for religious educators the world over. When something doesn’t quite seem to be in the spirit of the law…Kedoshim Tehiyu! When you can’t think of a logical reason for the action to have been prohibited but you just don’t like it…Kedoshim Tehiyu! When you actually have no problem with what went down but are afraid of what it may lead to down the road and want to plant just the slightest seed of doubt/guilt…Kedoshim Tehiyu!

Now before everybody out there starts getting all atwitter, I am not mocking the term or the lesson that it is meant to impart. It is a truth that anybody who is truly paying attention to what Judaism is all about recognizes.

I just always found it a little humorous in an “I’ll bet you twenty bucks that at some point he uses Kedoshim Tehiyu…” sort of way. Then again, maybe part of the reason that it is used so much is because of how true it is and how well it encapsulates the idea.

That one must always strive to live within the spirit of law as much as they do the letter of the law. Even more so when life throws up situations where there are no governing laws at all, there is always that guiding principle…Kedoshim Tehiyu.

My only real issue with all the Kedoshim Tehiyuing that goes on is that very rarely does anybody actually take the time to explain just what it means and how it should work.

In that vein we have culled for you today a pair of fine articles which, I feel, layout some of what makes up the implications of living a life of Kedoshim Tehiyu. (that should be enough, I figure 8x is about the standard anyway for a novice such as myself).
--both were obtained via the weekly Parshah Roundup over at Hirhurim, I highly recommend it--

Here is a link to a piece by Rav Frand…and here is a piece in full from TorahLab:

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

I ask myself regularly if I really want to be holy.

In the year 1930 the Chofetz Chaim traveled to Vilna.

He went to speak in the oldest and most central Shul in Vilna. In honor of the Gadol HaDor all the candles were lit and the tall beams that held up the roof were ornately decorated. The hand carved Aron HaKodesh was brilliantly polished. A half-hour before the scheduled talk the Shul was already completely full. The saintly rabbi stood radiantly at the pulpit and made history. The slightness of his body somehow emphasized the greatness of his soul. People described a sort of spiritual light that the tzadik exuded.

Why was this a historic occasion? Because the Shul was full of women. Many men were crowded outside to catch a glimpse or perhaps a blessing of the Chofetz Chaim but there was a guard at the door that didn't allow the men into the Shul.

What was the Chofetz Chaim's message? “Kedoshim Tihyu!” You must be holy! Not vicariously through your husbands or your Rav or even through your children - you yourselves must be holy. Kedoshim Tihyu, you must be holy just like Hashem is holy!”

The Chofetz Chaim ended his talk by pointing out that the evenings event was the first time since the Vilna Shul was built 500 years earlier, that the Shul was filled with women only. The event, he said, should be recorded in the history books.

The Chofetz Chaim then turned around and opened the Aron HaKodesh. Everyone jumped to their feet. The Chofetz Chaim, a Kohein, recited the Birchas Kohein, and blessed the women with parnossa, health and Shalom.

Indeed, this was an historic moment.

I hate to analyze a great moment but something must be said. We all know that there is a concept of kedusha. We even know that there is a Parsha named after the mitzva of becoming holy. Yet, somehow, I think that most of us feel that this mitzva is not really for us. Historically, women have left holiness to the men, men have left it for the scholars, scholars have left it to the Rabbonim and the Roshei Yeshiva, the Rabbonim have left it to the Tzadikim and Rebbes, and those giants have left the mitzva to those who have lived in a previous generation. Kedoshim Tihyu? Let's get real.

To be completely honest, I ask myself, if I really want to be holy? It sounds scary. Is it a lifestyle that I can really handle? I admire holy people - but is it for me? I'm happy to keep Kosher and put on Tefilin but to be a kadosh sounds too far afield.
This was the message of the Chofetz Chaim. It doesn't say to admire kedusha, respect kedusha, support kedusha or marry kedusha. Kedoshim Tihyu! Be kedusha! Every Jew must be holy.

And what is entailed in Kedusha? Being kadosh means being special. We must be aware that we are a special people. We can't allow ourselves to fall into the behavior patterns of the ordinary. We must pay attention to how we dress, how we talk and when we talk. We must be super honest in business and super careful with other peoples feelings. People must say, “He or she is really special, the Jews are really a special people.”

Not just our leaders or our story books - but each one of us.