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"Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying. Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them - You shall be holy, for holy am I, Hashem, your G-d" (Vayikra 19:1-2).
Many ask, why is the fact that Hashem is holy a reason to obligate every one of us to be holy too? How can we compare ourselves to Hashem and how do His attributes require us to be likewise?
However, the passage may be understood in a totally different way.
Later in the parashah, the Torah says, "You shall sanctify yourselves and you will be holy, for I am Hashem, your G-d" (ibid. 20:7). The Gemara (Yuma 39a) explains this as a promise: "If one sanctifies himself a little, they sanctify him a lot." In other words, one should not wonder how he can possibly achieve holiness being merely a mundane human being. Because he only has to toil to sanctify himself a little bit and then he will receive holiness from above as a reward for his efforts.
In light of that Chazal we may understand this first passage in a similar vein. Hashem commanded us to be holy. But lest we conclude that we do not have the power to implement this mitzvah properly, Hashem explains, "for holy am I - and I will cause some of My Own holiness to descend upon you."
We all witness, in our own lives and in the lives of others, the tremendous siyata diShemaya (Heavenly assistance) which befalls one who sincerely wants to sanctify his or her way of life and get close to Hashem. My dear wife, may she always be well, recently shared a taxi with a tourist, from the Kosel HaMa'aravi to the center of Jerusalem, and in that short car ride heard an amazing story from an amazing woman.
She explained that she lives in Texas in a place where there are absolutely no religious Jews. Consequently, she knew nothing about authentic Torah Judaism. And yet something within her stirred her to search for the truth. She began searching the internet for Jewish literature and came across an Artscroll Siddur and Chumash which she purchased and studied intensely. The more she learned the more she wanted to know but she needed someone to teach her. She and her husband got stronger and stronger in their religious commitments, but they could not move to a religious community because of his job. She prayed to Hashem, Whom she firmly believed in, to somehow send them someone to learn with them His holy Torah.
In Jerusalem, lives an ultra-Orthodox Rabbi with eleven children. One of his daughters got sick and he was told that there is an excellent medical center in Texas which specializes in his daughter's sickness. The Rabbi took his daughter there for examinations and analyses. While there, he became friends with a non-Jewish person who introduced him to the local Jewish family. They were very happy to have the opportunity to speak with a Rabbi from Jerusalem and asked him many questions about Judaism.
When all the test results arrived, the doctors at the medical center concluded that they would have to work with the young girl for about six months in order to heal her of her sickness. The Rabbi had no doubt that he would have to comply but his financial limitations made the situation very complex. Would he have to spend six months away from his family? Apparently so, since he could not possibly afford to bring them all to the States and put them up there.
To the Rabbi's amazement, the non-Jewish fellow said that he would be happy to take it upon himself to sponsor the entire family for as long as they had to be in Texas. He paid for all of their fares and found a place where they could all stay together the entire six months. While there, the Rabbi found himself with a lot of spare time on his hand and so he would visit the Jewish family every day and learn Torah with them. As their knowledge increased, so did their commitment. Before long, they were fully observant.
When my wife asked the woman if she would like to spend Shabbat in the Old City (where my daughter Devori lives, baruch Hashem), she replied that she is staying at the home of the Rabbi who had taught them everything they new. She commented, "When I prayed to Hashem to provide me with someone to learn with us, I really didn't expect Him to send someone into our house every day, for six months. His ways are wondrous indeed."
As the Gemara said, "If one sanctifies himself a little, they sanctify him a lot."
Shema Yisrael Torah Network