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The Systems of the Jewish Year


By Rabbi Sender Haber

Moshe gathered all of the Jewish people together in a gathering called Hakhel. He taught us the fifty mitzvos found in this week’s parsha but introduced them with the commandment: “Kedoshim Tihiyu’ – You must be holy.

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’.

The Rambam understands the commandment a little differently. He writes in his introduction to Sefer Hamitzvos that being holy is not a new Mitzvah. It is just an extra push and encouragement to keep all of the other Mitzvos and to stay away from Aveiros.

Rashi appears to come down in between. He tells us to be holy by staying far away from Arayos – inappropriate relationships – and other Aveiros. It isn’t enough not to do Aveiros. We need to keep safeguards as well.

Everyone appears to agree that being ‘kadosh’ is an attitude in life. It may manifest or be manifested by actions and safeguards, but ultimately it is about our approach to life.

Rav Shalom Schwadron tells the story of a Hot Dog Drawing contest. One of the finalists requested a year to perfect his painting. He won the contest and explained his strategy.

“Of course I didn’t spend a year on the drawing”, he said. “First I swore off hot dogs. I didn’t eat them for an entire year. I love Hot Dogs so I began to obsess about them. They filled my mind and all of my waking and sleeping hours were consumed with images of Hot Dogs. Finally, as the year drew to a close I was able to take my vivid thoughts and put them down on paper.”

That is Kedusha. We need to fill our minds with something holy until we are day dreaming about kindness and Torah study and helping people and making every person feel good. If we fill our minds with that we will have fulfilled all three interpretations of Kedusha.

We can become obsessed with kedusha.

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