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Shabbat Parashat Kedoshim 5774

Parashat Hashavua: Holy and Separate

Harav Shaul Yisraeli based on Siach Shaul, p. 335

“You shall be holy” (Vayikra 19:2) – you shall separate yourselves (Sifra, Kedoshim 1). Sanctity requires separation; it does not come from nature itself. This goal is the essence of Judaism. Our aspiration to reach the greatest heights does not include an outlook of ignoring reality and does not cover up that which exists. Rather, we are to try to “uproot the weeds” that are damaging before the time comes to “plant the saplings of blessing.”

Israel said “We will do and hear” and also experienced the mountain hung over their heads. There is no contradiction between the two. Both powers exist in man: the natural good side with special inborn qualities; and the side which is corrupt and caustic. Along with the good action that Israel performed (accepting the Torah enthusiastically), they also needed to accept upon themselves the element of “stay away from evil,” the uprooting of the weeds. They could not ignore them or cover them up but had to hang a mountain above them to force them to do that which was incumbent upon them. Only when that was done was it possible for the positive action of saying “We will do and hear” to have its true positive impact.

Therefore, every generation must reaccept the Torah. For that reason every year there must be a reacceptance of the Torah, and every day it should be to one as new.

The refinement of one’s personal nature must come through man, and doing so for himself brings along an improvement in all of nature. All the world, as we know it, depends upon man – it is elevated when man elevates himself, and it is lowered when man lowers himself. “If not for My covenant, day and night, the rules of the heavens and the earth I would not have installed” (Yirmiya 33:25). If you do not accept the Torah, the corruption of nature will multiply and magnify, and you will be “buried alive” from a moral perspective.

We now also understand the statement of the mishna in Kiddushin (4:14): “Neither poverty nor affluence is a result of one’s profession; rather everything depends on one’s merits.” This is difficult, asks Tosafot (Kiddushin 82a), as the gemara (Moed Katan 28a) says that children, life, and livelihood are not based on merit but based on mazal (predetermined fate). On the other hand, there is no mazal for Israel (Shabbat 156a).

The explanation is that mazal is a combination of natural causes. However, there is also a possibility of going beyond natural factors, and this happens if one realizes that riches and poverty do not come from one’s profession. While things such as children, life, and sustenance depend on mazal, merit can change the mazal. This is because when one fixes nature, then mazal, which is a foundation of “blind nature” within the world, is also changed and fixed.

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