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Judaism: Build a Spiritual Identity - through Vision and Action

This week's dvar Torah is by Rav Doron Podlashuk - Former Rosh Kollel in Johannesburg. Director of the post smicha –Manhigut Toranit program at the Eretz Hemda Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
Published: Thursday, April 24, 2014 9:06 AM


Joel Barker said – "Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world"

The Jewish people can undoubtedly claim that they have changed the world. One could argue that this should come as no surprise since G-d himself chose us to become his Chosen nation. However although G-d is Almighty and can do anything; He willfully chose to govern our world  through a natural order and thereby give us free choice.

If Barker is correct, the question is how did G-d take a slave nation, and turn them into a people that would literally change the world?

Firstly G-d gave us a vision – not only on a personal level but on a national one as well. "To be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation"(Shmot 19/6). This "holy nation" would be a "light unto the other nations"(Yeshayahu 42/6) – and bring about a Tikun Olam – a restoration of the world.

But to a slave nation, who has just emerged from the depths of depravity in immoral and brutal Egypt, Kedusha – holiness - is not only unfathomable; it is incomprehensible.

Here G-d gives us his proverbial hand and leads us step by step giving us a clear action plan. When the People of Israel came out of Egypt, Mitzrayim, and reached Mara – our sages, Chazal, tell us that Hashem gave them two mitzvot- Honoring ones parents and Shabbat.(Midrash Pesikta Zutrta)

Hashem tells the slave nation – before we can achieve the sublime and lofty vision of "Kedusha", you first need to be decent human beings – a nation of mentchzin. Honoring ones parents is a basic and fundamental principle of common decency called – Hakarat Hatov – Appreciating and thanking others for the good they bestowed upon you. Rav Kook writes that any Yirat Shamayim (fear of Heaven) that negates ones innate human morality is on a certain level a perverted "Yirat shamayim".(Orot Hakodesh ch.3)

Rashi quotes another midrash that the mitzva of the Red heifer was given then. This mitzva is the quintessential example of doing things because we are commanded to by Divine law – even though we cannot fathom its meaning. A critical aspect of achieving our vision is internalizing this principle – We do mitzvot because we are commanded, and not because we view and understand their immense value and beauty.

 At this stage G-d introduces us to the concept of "Kedusha – holiness". First, we are shown the concept of Kedusha within the realm of time – Shabbat. The second half  of the Book of Exodus, Sefer Shmot, is dedicated to the building of the Tabernacle, the Msihkan. Here Hashem illustrates the concept of Kedusha within the realm of space. The beginning of Leviticus,Sefer Vayikra, teaches us that we can consecrate animals and mundane objects and instill within them Kedusha.

Finally after all of these lessons; of being able to find Kedusha in all aspects and realms of this world  – Hashem teaches us that there is holiness within ourselves – through  perfection of our actions, character traits and thoughts. This in essence is the hidden message of the Biblical illnesses of Ttzaraat and Ziva.(although they reflect this in our failure to achieve this)

In our Parsha – the Torah tells us " Kdoshim Tihiyu" - be holy. The Ramban in his famous explanation of this verse gives a novel approach to the concept of Kedusha. If up until now we have illustrated that the Torah not only gave us a clear vision, of whom we could become; together with  a step by step action plan as to how to achieve it;

Here the Ramban explains that the Torah is ordering us to "separate ourselves from impurity even though the Torah didn’t command us to do so" and "going beyond the letter of the law for others" relating to this idea and the verse "and you shall do what is good and just".

If up until now Hashem has given us a clear action plan as to how to achieve our vision of Kedusha; here the Torah tells us that the final step is for us to navigate our own way to cleave to the Holy One, Hakadosh Barucha Hu and become holy once we have internalized all the direct commandments of the Torah.

G-d as the ultimate teacher at some stage, wants us to figure out the answer even though he hasn’t taught us explicitly in the proverbial classroom. He has given us the tools and knowhow to intuit what is the straight and just path.

B"H after Pesach (Passover) where we celebrated our freedom; let us merit to use it to achieve our G-d given vision – "And you shall be holy".

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