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The Systems of the Jewish Year


By Rabbi Sender Haber

"Do not desecrate My holy name; I must be sanctified amongst the Jewish People. I am G-d who makes you holy.”

Last week, Moshe gathered all of the Jewish people together in a gathering called Hakhel. All of the Jewish people were there: The men, the women and even the little children. At that gathering Moshe taught us fifty one mitzvos beginning with the commandment: “Kedoshim Tihiyu’ – You must be holy.

This week, Moshe reminds us once again that G-d has sanctified us and charged us to be represent holiness in this world.

We are all familiar with holiness. Hopefully, we’ve been in contact with holy individuals, experienced holy times and visited holy places. Moshe taught us that this was not enough. We need to be holy. All of us.

The Ramban explains that Kedoshim Tehiyu is a Mitzvah that affects the way we live and interact with this world. It is possible for a person to keep all of the commandments and still be a ‘Naval Bireshus Hatorah’ – ‘a disgusting person who follows the Torah’.

Kedoshim Tihyu is telling us that besides for keeping the other 612 mitzvos we need to be sure that we are Kedoshim.

It is not enough to encounter holy people, holy places, and holy moments.  Rather than just being impressed and inspired by what we see and feel, we need to internalize that awe and make it part of who we are.

Last year at this time all of us were shocked to hear about the bombing in Boston. There are so many questions, but foremost in my mind was: How did anyone think that it would be a good? How was planting a bomb at a marathon something spiritual, something brave, something fun, or something smart?

How does any human being or group of human beings come to the conclusion that planting a bomb at a race is a good idea?

Etymologically, the word Kadosh means separate and apart. G-d is Kadosh because he is so above and beyond anything that we can imagine. G-d is perfect because he is not influenced by the emotions and fads and sometimes ridiculous thought processes that human beings go through.

We need to learn to be Kadosh as well. We aren’t evil or wicked, but we aren’t perfect in our decision making either. Every one of us can think back to a decision that we made in the heat of the moment or as a result of intense emotion.

As Kedoshim, we need to learn to rise above that. The Talmud tells us that if a Torah Scholar acts rashly it is because the Torah within him is causing his blood to boil. Impressive, but not ideal. Every Torah Scholar and every person should strive to rise above his or her emotions and feelings. We need to make decisions about how we treat other people and what we say to them as Kedoshim, as holy and unbiased people.

When I was young, there was a rebbe by the name of Reb Mechele who would come to our school. He is still alive and travelling around. He is a holy man and his face would truly glow. Each year he would come to our school and ask everyone to gather in one room. He would speak a little and give out prizes, but before he started and after he finished, he would always the same song. The words were ‘m’darf machen Kiddush oif’n gantze velt’. We need to make Kiddush for the whole world. Just like we sanctify Shabbos with Kiddush and make it holy, we have a mission to sanctify the entire world and make it holy.

At the time, I sang along, but as I got older I realized that his lesson was not so simple. How likely was it that a bunch of elementary school boys were going to sanctify the whole world? How much did he expect us to affect our own school, our community and the city of Melbourne?

Still, Reb Mechele was right. We need to make Kiddush. We need to work on our holiness. We need to fine tune our ability to rise above the fray and act and think in a G-dly way.

When we speak of holiness in Kedusha we jump up and down to mimic the angels. The Reishis Chochma writes that holiness is hard to maintain on a constant basis. We try and we fall and we try and we fall. But we need to try, we need to be holy, and we need to share that holiness with the entire world.

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