Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch writes that holiness means establishing an
entire foundation within the Jew, within his personality and powers; and
channel, direct and develop all these human forces and drives; to attain
moral elevation. Without this, one's foundation for performance of and
fulfillment of the Torah is essentially crippled.
Only through holiness can we achieve the Torah's goals and standards for
living. The midrash (Toras Kohanim) tells us that to achieve holiness, one
must work to separate from this-worldliness. This is not for the purpose of
cancelling the physical part of a person. We are put into this world to
practice physical life. But physical life must be approached through
spirituality. We are not asked to kill our nature. We are to channel, control
and elevate our physical powers and inclinations. Through physical powers, we
can implement spiritual powers. We take our physical powers, elevate them,
make them holy and use them to serve Hashem.
Not one of the human powers, drives and tendencies are good or bad in and
of themselves. All - from the most primitive to the most exalted - are given
for the beneficial purpose of accomplishing Hashem's will on earth through
all of the human powers. Rabbi Hirsch says that the Torah gives a positive
aim and a negative limit to direct us in how to channel, develope, direct and
use human powers and nature.
Holiness and spirituality give purpose and meaning to the nature and
personality put into us because this enables us to use our powers and
resources for that which is good, spiritual and holy. This requires
separation from the purposes, powers, goals and values that lead us to all
which is coarse, evil, physical, self-indulgent; to the midos
(characteristics) of the material world. The Torah commands us to separate
from earthly things and to develop our spiritual drives, qualities and
values, and to elevate ourselves for holiness.
The goal is to gain mastery of oneself through restraint, self-control,
discipline and a Higher Will governing our every move. Within the permissible
limitations, that which we do within our physical selves and with our
physical resources is holiness, is elevated and spiritual, is beyond the
physical world. We make ourselves G-dly.
What comes next immediately after the commandment to be holy? "Be holy
because I the L-rd your G-d am holy." Make yourselves holy because Hashem is
holy! We are created in the image of G-d. We are obligated to model ourselves
after G-d's spiritual qualities and to go in His ways. As He is separated
from this world, we have to work to separate from this world. Since we are
within this world, our lot is to separate from this world within this world.
We are in this world for the purpose of rising above it! When we separate,
elevate and refine ourselves, gain more control of ourselves and attain to
higher morals, that is more and more becoming holy. Hashem is the source of
holiness and His holiness is what makes us able to be holy by being more and
more like Him. Through our becoming holy, we proclaim Hashem's holiness. Our
achieving holiness makes sanctification of Hashem (kiddush Hashem) which is
one of the obligation of the Torah incumbent upon the Jew. Everything that
the Jew does must be infused with holiness. Anything which is absent of
holiness, even "technical Torah," misses this. The Jew's character and
behaviors show the imprint of holiness, modeled after Hashem's Holiness.
Let's tie this into our interpersonal context.
Hashem commanded Moshe to state this portion of Torah in front of the
entire Jewish people because numerous essential principles depend upon it
The Chasam Sofer stated that to be holy, one cannot be isolated and
withdrawn from the rest of society. The very fact that the Torah stated the
admonition to be holy in an assembly means that the Jew must learn how to
sanctify himself by behaving properly among other people.
A person once asked the Chazon Ish if he should go into isolation so that
he could study Torah without bother or distraction. The Chazon Ish answered,
"My heart cannot believe that you can have true acquisition of Torah by
isolation from everyone. Society and friends assist in acquiring Torah." [to