Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues
YOU ARE ALL HOLYAdapted from Minchas Asher, by Rav Asher Weiss
In this week's parsha Hashem commands the Bnei Yisroel regarding the kedusha of the Cohanim: "They shall be holy to their God, and they shall not desecrate their God's Name, for they offer up the fire offerings of the Lord, the food offering of their God, so they shall be holy…. You shall sanctify him (the Cohen), for he offers up the food offering of your God; he shall be holy to you, for I, the Lord Who sanctifies you, am holy." (Vayikra 21:6,8)
In parshas Kedoshim we were all instructed to conduct ourselves with kedusha: "Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your G d, am holy." (Vayikra 19:2)
Klal Yisroel were endowed with many levels of kedusha, each one higher than the other. Kedusha isn't one single height. Rather it is a relentless longing within the person for excellence. It's not a status; it is a way of life.
The holy Ohr Hachaim at the beginning of parshas Kedoshim writes that really in all the various aspects of Creation there are different levels of kedusha rising higher and higher.
Many mussar seforim cite a remarkable statement from the Sefer HaYetzira. When Hashem gave the Torah, Har Sinai was full of Oshan עשן (smoke, dark cloud). The word עשן is an abbreviation for עולם, שנה, נפש world, year, soul. These are the three categories that comprise the entire Creation. The category of "the world" consists of the material creation, from the earth and everything on it, to the sky with all the stars: everything in the physical universe. "Year" relates to the creation of time. "Soul" correlates to the creation of Man. These are the three branches of Creation.
In each class there are myriads of levels of holiness, each higher than the next. The lowest level of the physical world is the sea and continents which have no kedusha whatsoever. Above that is Eretz Yisroel; then Yerushalayim; then Har Habayis (the mountain upon which the Bais Hamikdash stood). Within the Har Habayis is the Azara, the holy courtyard. Then the structure of the actual Bais Hamikdash. The highest level of kedusha was the Kodesh Kodoshim. In time the week days are the lowest level. Then comes Chol Hamoed, Yom Tov, Shabbos, and then Yom Kippur which is the Shabbos of all Shabbosim.
Similarly in Man there are various levels of kedusha. Lowest are the nations of the world, then Yisroel, the tribe of Levi, the Cohanim, and above them all is the Cohen Gadol.
This has all been dictated by the wisdom of Hashem Yisborach that each aspect of the various features of Creation should radiate the Divine Light and G dly Radiance out from the central point of Creation to influence and affect that which is nearby, and so one down to the lowest level.
What exactly is kedusha? How do we define it? We can take a hint from the beginning of mesechta Kiddushin where marriage, which chazal called kedushin, is defined. Chazal there explain that the word kiddushin implies that the husband prohibits his wife on everyone else like a holy object: hekdesh. Tosafos explains that in simple terms it means that when he says to his bride,הרי את מקודשת לי "you are mekudushes to me", he means "you are especial to me, destined just for me."
Kedusha is not what is commonly translated as holy, or sanctified. Kedusha means something that is special and set aside.
The Cohanim are special. They are designated to work in the Bais Hamikdash. This is their kedusha. But even the entire Klal Yisroel have been charged to be a Kingdom of Cohanim and a Holy Nation. The entire Jewish nation has been instructed to be set aside to serve Hashem, not specifically in the Bais Hamikdash, but rather wherever they make a holy dwelling all over the world. This is amazing. The entire nation were commanded to sanctify the profane. The Cohanim were commanded to sanctify the holy. We are all a Kingdom of Cohanim, and a Holy People.
Even the avodah of the Cohanim wasn't for their own sake. Their service is for all of Klal Yisroel. They are serving us (הני כהני שלוחי דידן נינהו ולא רק שלוחי דרחמנא - קידושין כ"ג). Through the Cohanim all of Klal Yisroel are set aside and raised up to serve the Almighty. The Cohanim carry out the actual Avodah of the Korbonos. But the purpose of the Korbonos is for the entire nation to offer the korbonos through their messengers the Cohanim. All of Klal Yisroel are holy; we are a nation of kedusha. Each one of us is special and set aside to serve our Creator. Each person in his own service. Each person with his own particular mitzvos. All of us together.
Each one of us is holy!
Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos!
Shema Yisrael Torah Network