Sunday, May 4, 2008

"You Shall be Holy." - Command or Promise?

There are two questions on the second pasuk in Parshas Kedoshim, Vayikra 19:2, "דַּבֵּר אֶל-כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם--קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ," "Speak to the whole congregation of Israel, and say to them, 'You shall be holy.'" I'll bring down the approach of the Satmar Rov, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum in Divrei Yoel, and of the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh on these two questions: 1) Why does the same pasuk say both "דַּבֵּר" and "וְאָמַרְתָּ?" The First implies a harsh message and the second term implies a gentle message. It seems contradictory to find both terms used in the same pasuk! And 2) What is the pshat in the words "קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ," "You Shall be holy."?

The Satmar Rov says, based on the story with the Nesius of Rabban Gamliel and Reb Elazar ben Azaria in Brachos 28a, that the Shechina, Divine Presence only dwells in a community where everyone is equally sincere as they appear to be on the outside, and no one is living a a lie, where they appear to be very religious while they are not that way on the inside. He also said that the pasuk "קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ," "You shall be holy" is not a command, but rather, a promise! Hashem is promising the Jewish people that they will indeed be holy, and will be worthy of being called "תוכו כברו," equally as sincere on the inside as they appear to be on the outside. Therefore, pshat in the both harsh and gentles words used in that pasuk is to reflect the mixed message that the pasuk contains. On one hand it says "דַּבֵּר" since it is a bit of a harsh message to hear that the Shechina will not dwell among them unless they are totally sincere inside and out. Yet, it's a gentle and comforting message to hear the promise that they will be worthy to be called "holy" and be as sincere as is demanded of them. And it is that gentle and comforting message that is found in the kind word "וְאָמַרְתָּ."

Another interesting take on these questions is the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh. He says that the pasuk "קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ," "You shall be holy" is coming to add a positive commandment, a mitzvas aseh, to be holy and avoid all of the Arayos, the forbidden relationships mentioned at the end of Parshas Acharei Mos and in Parshas Kedoshim. So now, not only would a person transgress the applicable "lav," prohibition, but he will now be over on an "Issur Aseh," a prohibition derived from a positive commandment, as well. On the other hand, one will now be fulfilling a positive commandment when he abstains from engaging in a forbidden relationship. Whereas without that mitzvas Aseh of "Kedoshim Ti'hiyu," one would simply be "doing nothing" by avoiding the prohibition. So that's the meaning of the harsh language of "דַּבֵּר." It's a harsh message to know that there is now an additional sin involved in these forbidden relationships. On the other hand, it's a big chizuk to know that by avoiding those avieros, we can now fulfill an additional mitzva. And that's the reason for the gentle language of "וְאָמַרְתָּ."

-Dixie Yid

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