Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky
Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky

Attaining Holiness

"Your camp shall be holy"- With these words the Torah sets the standards to which the Jewish camp must adhere as it engages in battle against its enemies. It is only by maintaining this sanctity that it can merit victory. This rallying call to holiness is what enables Hashem's presence to accompany the Jewish camp as it wages war. The Torah Shebal Peh explains that this standard of holiness is also mandated at any time we are accompanied by the Divine Presence. When mentioning Hashem's Name, either via the study of Torah or during davening or reciting brachos, the laws that govern the sanctity of the camp apply as well.

There are two halachic categories that comprise the standards of sanctity that must be met both in battle and during recitation of Torah and tefilla. The pesukim in Parshas Ki Teitsei delineate both of these requirements. Care must be taken after one physically relieves oneself that that surrounding area be treated appropriately. The Torah specifies requirements that there be a place outside the actual camp designated for this purpose lest the camp itself become defiled.

Additionally, every soldier must carry equipment with him to dig and properly cover human waste. The halachos that govern speaking words of Torah and tefilla in a bathroom are patterned after the sanctity required for the Jewish camp going out to battle.

There is a second aspect of holiness that must be maintained. Proper standards of physical modesty must be upheld at all times, but especially when Hashem's presence accompanies us. The Torah warns us that laxity in this area can cause Hashem's presence to depart. Similarly, there are halachos that prohibit the saying of words of Torah and tefilla in the presence of someone not dressed appropriately.

Is there a connection between these two areas of sanctity? The Rambam in Sefer Kedusha - The Book of Sanctity - includes two areas of halacha: the laws that govern prohibited marriages and the laws of kashrus. These laws are incorporated together to comprise the standards of holiness a Jew must attain. What is the essence of holiness that specifically includes these halachos?

The source of all holiness is Hashem, whom we refer to as Hakadosh Baruch Hu. We are commanded to emulate Hashem by being holy ourselves. Hashem is completely spiritual, therefore He is holy. We are both physical and spiritual and therefore find being holy to be a challenge. It is only by emphasizing our spiritual dimension instead of our physical side can we attain sanctity. There are two human endeavors that challenge us to focus on our spiritual side notwithstanding the physical nature of these activities. Both marital relations and eating can potentially become mere ways to pursue physical pleasure. In these two areas we can elevate ourselves by focusing on the spiritual dimensions of these otherwise physical acts. Hashem has given us the opportunity to bring children into the world and provide ourselves with physical sustenance. The laws of marriage and kashrus ensure that our perspective in these areas remains focused on spiritual goals. In this way we can become holy, thereby emulating the holiness of Hashem.

The halachic antithesis of holiness is impurity. It is for this reason that one who is impure cannot enter the Beis Hamikdash or partake of korbanos. A human body transmits impurity upon death. Devoid of the spiritual soul, the physical corpse is a source of impurity. The Torah refers to violations in the realm of prohibited relationships and kashrus as acts of impurity.

After the intricacies of kashrus are elaborated upon in Parshas Shmini, the Torah concludes by warning us not to become impure by eating non-kosher food. Similarly, in Parshas Acharei Mos the laws governing prohibited marriages are followed by a warning not to defile ourselves by the impurity of these relationships.

Eating for our physical sustenance to advance our spiritual growth is an act of kedusha. After we have used the properties of food for our nourishment, the waste product which is devoid of any spiritual content is a source of impurity and , as such, it has no place in the Jewish camp which is accompanied by the Holy Presence of Hashem. Inappropriate activity that abuses the spiritual dimensions of marital relations is a source of impurity that is not compatible with the presence of Hashem's sanctity.

These lessons of sanctity speak to us not only in times of war and when we are mentioning Hashem's name. Throughout our lives, we must be careful in these realms that can be detrimental to our quest for holiness. May Hashem who is the Source of all kedusha assist us to overcome any challenges to our sanctity. May we merit to attain a state of kedusha and tahara, thereby meriting the presence of Hashem to accompany us in all of our endeavors.

Copyright © 2016 by TorahWeb.org. All rights reserved.