JWR Outlook

Jewish World Review May 2, 2003 / 30 Nissan, 5763

Want to be holy? Do something about it

By Rabbi Berel Wein

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | This week's Torah portion, K'doshim contains tens of individual mitzvos, religious duties. The fact that a parsha titled K'doshim -- referring to holy and moral behavior -- concerns itself with so many of the technicalities of ritual illustrates Judaism's realistic assessment that the devil is always in the details.

High-sounding moral phrases and noble expressions of holiness never suffice to truly create an atmosphere of moral purpose. We know of too many "holy" people whose personal behavior and weaknesses of the flesh belie their public manifestations of rectitude and morality.

The Torah - Bible -- takes great pains to detail for Jews the directions for achieving holy behavior and noble status. The observance of the minutiae of the commandments, the realization that the Torah encompass all venues of human life and behavior, and the willingness to obey the Divine's commandments are the building blocks of holiness in an individual and a nation.

Restraint, self-discipline, faith in the Divine and tradition, and an ability to see the importance in the small details are the components that help create a holy personality amongst Jews.

The commandments that concern themselves with greed and unjust gain of money and those that deal with sexual promiscuity are prominent in the list of commandments found in this week's Torah portion. The Rabbis of the Talmud warned us that most people somehow end up, during the course of a lifetime, possessing money or items that are not really theirs --- legally or morally. And, a sizable number of people (though described as a minority) commit sexual sins and acts of folly.

Therefore, great emphasis must be placed on these two issues of human behavior in order to begin somehow to deal with the task of creating holiness.

What results is all of the details and technicalities that are involved in the Torah's view of these matters. There are many ways to steal and the Torah attempts to close all loopholes in this matter. False and/or misleading information by a seller towards a buyer is a crime in Torah law.

Even giving a false impression to a client or a customer is banned.

The creation of an honest person is all in the details. And the details, by Jewish definition, are the particulars of ritual that adorn every commandment of the Torah. The same is true regarding human sexuality, which can be either made holy or reduced to animal tawdriness. The details of the commandments regarding human behavior in this field are the rungs of the ladder that lead to holy behavior and noble living.

Even those acts and behaviors that are permitted to us, under Torah law, must also encompass holy restraint and self-discipline.

Holy means being in control of one's self and one's desires. It is not abstinence nor is it asceticism. It is the ability to live life in a naturally pristine and exalted manner. There can be no higher goal and no surer formula for human gratification and happiness that k'doshim tihiyu -- being holy -- in thought, in attitude, in behavior, and action.

The Divine's commandments help us to realize this wonderful type of life.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Berel Wein is one of Jewry's foremost historians and founder of the Destiny Foundation. He has authored over 650 tapes, books and videos which you can purchase at RabbiWein.com. Comment by clicking here or calling 1-800-499-WEIN (9346).


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© 2002, Rabbi Berel Wein