Mishpatim - Reaching Higher for Holiness

The parshah is dominated by rules, regulations, and legal ways for conduct. Until the fourth aliya, and somewhat out of context the following verse appears.

"Be a holy people to Me. Do not flesh torn off in the field by a predator. Cast it to the dogs."
- Shmot 22:30

Why suddenly at this point after all the rules, and legal guidance, that came earlier does this verse appear here?
Why is it associated with, of all halachot, about eating treif meat?

Rashi comments on this verse saying: "If you are holy and separated from abominations, carcasses, and dead prey, then you are Mine"

The Siftei Chachamim takes note of Rashi's language, asking "Why does Rashi add the word 'If' to his commentary? Why, so that you should not read the verse Be a holy people to Me as a commandment."

This perspective puts the verse on another level, creating a certain level of expectation for behavior. But still, why put it in the same verse as the commandment not to eat treif meat.

The Ramban addresses this issue in the verse, saying "And now that [the verse] comes to start with the eating prohibitions, it opens with the statement Be a holy people to Me. One might think that it should be appropriate for people to eat anything, with no food prohibitions, only to be pure in soul, that one should just eat clean things that will not cause your soul to be vulgar. That is why this verse begins with Be holy people to Me - that is to say I [G-d] want you to be Holy People that you should be suitable to Me, to connect to Me, for I am Holy - therefore don't disgrace your souls by eating disgusting things."

Quite literally, you are what you eat. That the first level of self purification is not thinking good thoughts, or meditation, it is taking action with conduct in your life, and considering what it is you eat. Not only is this just your own self-awareness, but this is the step towards ultimately growing closer to G-d.

In the sefer Netivot Shalom, HaRav Sholom Noach Berezovsky (Slonim Rebbe), asks about another side of the verse. He asks why does the verse include 'to Me', why couldn't it just say Be a Holy People?

To answer this, the Rebbe says to look at an earlier verse in Parshat Yitro "'You will be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation to Me.' These are the words that you must relate to the Israelites." (Shmot 19:6)
That here also the phrase 'to Me' is seemingly redundant, that it would have been enough to say You will be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation.

So it is saying a  formula where one part is dependent on the other, that If you will be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation, then you will be mine. And likewise, if you will be a holy people, then you be mine. The Rebbe says "For a Jew, holiness is the essential condition for being Jewish, that it is the essential value of holiness that is in Jewishness. For there are many warnings throughout the Torah about holiness, and for the Jewish people to maintain their holiness.

"It is like Hashem says my children don't be disgusting, the message that Hashem has to the Jew is 'My child, behold my child you are the child of the King, don't be disgusting, don't disgust yourself in filthy talk that is not fitting to the child of the King. There are things that a simple man that he would not consider to be a wrongdoing, but for you, the child of the King, they are disgusting.' This is what Hakodesh Baruch Hu says to Jews - Behold you are the child of the King! Do not sink yourself into things that are the opposite of holiness! That all these things push you further away from Hashem Blessed be He and not appropriate for the child of King.

"And the reason the holy Torah did not go into detail about the idea of holiness, about what to do and what not to do, because holiness is subjective and differs from person to person according to their level, that is how much one feels a child of the King."

In that sense, Rashi's initial comment on this verse is even more meaningful. That to be holy is not a commandment, because it is absolutely a subjective and individual matter. Commandments are accompanied with detailed instructions for how to perform the commandment. Holiness is a personal issue that every Jew must confront and determine for himself, how to bring more holiness into his life, and how to better connect to Hashem. For ultimately, above the performance of the commandments dictated by the Torah, that our goal is to reach, and reach higher for holiness.

No comments:

Post a Comment