Modzhitz: Kedoshim: Holiness in The Holy Land
The 4th of Iyar is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Shmuel Eliyahu (ben Shaul Yedidya Elazar) Taub, Modzhitzer-Tel Aviv Rebbe (1905-1984). In 1935, Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar and his son Reb Shmuel went on a pilgrimage
to Palestine. While they were there R. Shmuel fell in love with the Land of Israel and asked his father if he could stay there. His father agreed and within a year Rabbi Shmuel’s wife and their child came over to Israel. After his father’s death in 1947 he succeeded his father as the Modzitzer Rebbe, to be known later as the Imrei Eish.
“Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, “Speak to the entire congregation of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I, Hashem your G-d, am Holy.'” [Vayikra, 19:1-2]
Rashi points out that this portion was said “b’hakhel” [in an assembly], for a major body of the Torah was dependent on it. The holy sefarim ask, wasn’t the rest of the Torah also told to all of the Jews? Rashi then brings the Midrash which says, “You shall be holy” – perhaps like Me [Hashem]? The verse continues, “for I, Hashem your G-d, am Holy” – My Holiness is above yours. This amazes Reb Shaul – how could one imagine Himself to be like Hashem in the realm of Holiness? Doesn’t the verse say, “To whom will you liken Me, that I should be his equal, says the Holy One” [Yeshayahu, 40:25].
Another Midrash ties our verse to the verse [Tehillim, 20:3], “May He send you help from the holy [place], and support you from Zion.” What does this have to do with, “You shall be holy”? Finally, the Zohar relates that when the Chevraya [Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his disciples] came to this parsha, they rejoiced. What was it in our parsha that caused them to rejoice?
In his answer, Reb Shaul begins by telling us that the main source of sanctification for the Jew is in the Holy Land, when the Jewish people are dwelling there. Indeed, the Mishna [Keilim, 1:6-9] relates that there are ten levels of holiness in the Land of Israel – “the Land of Israel is holy, and Yerushalayim is holier than it, etc.” Similarly, the verse says, “The remnant in Zion, and those left in Yerushalayim, shall be called holy” [Yeshayahu, 4:3].
Now we can explain the first Midrash. “You shall be holy” – perhaps like Me [Hashem]? This means, one might think that just like Hashem’s Holiness is everywhere, “Holy, holy, holy…the entire world is filled with His Glory” [ Yeshayahu, 6:3] – so it is with the Jewish People, they can achieve holiness anywhere, even in the Diaspora. Therefore the verse continues, “for I, Hashem your G-d, am Holy” – My Holiness is above yours. This means, only in the place where there is the Mikdash, where my Kedusha [holiness] Above is directly over your kedusha below; only there can your kedusha be complete. This is indicated by Rashi on the verse [Shemos, 23:20], “I will…bring you to the place I have prepared,” wherein he comments, “The Mikdash Above is directly opposite the one below.”
Now the second Midrash is understood as well. “You shall be holy” – “May He send you help from the holy [place], and support you from Zion.” From the holy deeds of your hands, which can only be achieved in Zion [Israel], from there you will become holy.
The Holy Chevraya rejoiced when they arrived at this parsha, because the Torah says, “Kedoshim tihiyu” – you shall be holy, forever. They understood that the ultimate kedusha could only be achieved in the Holy Land, when Hashem will return His exiled People. They therefore rejoiced and were filled with hope in the ultimate Redemption of our people.
Finally, this portion was said “b’hakhel”, that is, when all the exiles are ingathered, then the sanctity of each individual will be complete. For our Sages teach us that Kedoshim, to be holy, means to be separate and distant from all forms of lust and sin. This can only be fully accomplished when we are separated from the rest of the nations – for it is their influence which ruin us, as our Sages say [Brachos, 17a], it is the “leaven in the dough, and the subjugation to the nations” which causes the Jew to sin. Therefore, the shelaimus – completion, perfection – described in this parsha, can only be “b’hakhel” – by the ingathering of the entire Jewish People from the four corners of the earth to our Holy Land.