Rabbi Mordechai Willig
Rabbi Mordechai Willig

Existing Through Holiness

"Kedoshim Tihiyu" (Vayikra 19:2) is rendered, "you shall be holy." The Medrash Tanchuma (9), as understood by the Yefe To'ar, notes that the phrase is inverted - it should have read, as in the translation, "Heyu Kedoshim - be holy" (see Shemos 19:15). The Tanchuma links this phrase to a pasuk recited daily: "May He send your help from Kodesh, and support you from Tzion" (Tehilim 20:3). Kodesh is not interpreted as geographical, referring to the Mikdash in Tziyon-Yerushalayim. Rather, it means "from the holiness of your actions - mek'dushas ma'asim shebach."

The Medrash continues that people need help and support, as David said in the verse cited above. The Yefe To'ar explains in light of the previous pasuk: "May Hashem answer you on a day of crisis, may the Name of Yaakov's G-d save you" (ibid 20:2). Once Hashem saves us, why is the help of others needed? The Medrash concludes that even though Hashem helps us, we need the additional help of others to strengthen us over our enemies. This help can be logistical and military, but can also refer to the holy actions mentioned earlier in the Medrash. Kedoshim Tihiyu thus means that through the holiness of your deeds you will exist in this world, despite your enemies' attempts to destroy you.

"In each and every generation they attempt to destroy us, but Hashem saves us from their hands" (Hagada shel Pesach). From a lone gunman in Poway to hundreds of murderous rockets fired in Eretz Yisrael, Jewish blood has been spilled since we recited those words. How should we respond?

We must intensify our prayers to Hashem for peace and security for Jews everywhere in this time of crisis (Tehilim 20:2). But we must also help (Tehilim 20:3) in other ways: logistically, by heightened security awareness and appropriate precautions; financially, by contributing to increased security when necessary and by tzedaka, - charity, which saves from death (Mishlei 10:2); spiritually, by holy actions which, as the Medrash teaches, ensure our existence; and by the study of Torah, especially in shuls and batei medrash, for when the voice of Yaakov is heard there, the hands of Eisav are neutralized (Bereishis Raba 65:20).

The Rambam (Hilchos Ta'aniyos 1:2,3) rules that when a communal crisis occurs, we must do teshuva, realizing that punishment results from sinful deeds, and, as a result, praying and repenting will remove the crisis. Attributing the crisis to chance, and failing to pray and repent, is cruel since it causes continued sins and worse crises. "If you attribute your crisis to chance (see Rashi Vayikra 26:21), I will respond with fury (ibid 26:27,28)."

As we read Parshas Kedoshim, Jews worldwide mark the horrific holocaust and the miraculous medina. Since these seminal events, of biblical proportions and foreseen in the Bible and its commentators, the Jewish people have changed in ways unimaginable seven decades ago.

The positive change is that the kol Yaakov in shuls and yeshivos has grown exponentially, in both Eretz Yisrael and in America. This affords a measure of protection against constant attacks by Eisav (which includes Yishmael, see Malbim to Daniel 7:8) in the Holy Land. This unprecedented growth should be assisted by our participation and support.

The negative changes, however, are that intermarriage in America is staggeringly rampant, the degenerate practices of Egypt and Canaan (Vayikra 18:3, see Ramban) have gained acceptance in American society, including among liberal Jews. In stark contrast to "Kedoshim Tihiyu" (see Rashi 19:2), the parsha closes by warning us to avoid immorality which causes expulsion from the Holy Land (Vayikra 20:22). These problems exist today, unfortunately, in Eretz Yisrael as well. The penultimate passuk of Parshas Kedoshim reads, "You shall be holy for Me...I have separated you from the nations to be Mine." We must reaffirm the immutability and morality of Hashem's Torah, and remain separate and not assimilate the postmodern values which are antithetical to Torah.

Only Hashem knows the reasons for the recent attacks on Jews here and in Eretz Yisrael and only He can save us. "If Hashem will not guard the city the watchman guards in vain" (Tehilim 127:1). Yet, even as we pray to Hashem to save us we must do our share to help, both logistically and spiritually, as the Medrash teaches. May our teshuva, tefilla, tzedaka and talmud Torah protect Jews from harm, as our holy deeds ensure our continued existence.

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