Name Tags are Overrated by Adam Haimowitz


In part of this week’s Sidrah, beginning with Parashat Kedoshim, Hashem describes to us many of the different guidelines in which we are supposed to live our lives as Jews. To start off this section, the Pasuk writes, “Dabeir El Kol Adat Bnei Yisrael VeAmarta Aleihem Kedoshim Tihyu Ki Kadosh Ani Hashem Elokeichem,” “Speak to the entire community of Bnei Yisrael and say to them that they must be holy, because I, their God, am holy” (VaYikra 19:2). The placement of this Pasuk seems troubling. Prior to this Parashah we learned the Halachot of Tum’ah and Taharah and the different levels of Tum’ah. That being so, wouldn’t the most logical placement for this Pasuk be before the section talking about Tum’ah? Why did Hashem instead elect to place this Pasuk here?

To understand the answer to this question, the Seforno makes a distinction between characteristics of the Halachot of Tum’ah versus all the Halachot discussed in Kedoshim. The Halachot of Tum’ah are primarily titles that people receive and do not reflect a person’s actions or deeds. A level of Tum’ah is more often than not achieved simply through a circumstance, such as a natural bodily function or encountering a dead body. These things more often than not do not reflect us as people but rather simply reflect the circumstances in which we are put. The Halachot presented in Parashat Kedoshim are fundamentally different than those of Tum’ah. Kedoshim describes rules such as Pei’ah (designating a corner of your field for the poor), the obligation to establish a fair justice system where everyone has equal opportunity, the Halachah of “Lifnei Iveir Lo Titein Michshol,” which is the prohibition of putting someone in a situation to do an Aveirah, and other laws of those sorts. Essentially the common denominator between all of the laws in this section is that they all pertain to how a person is supposed conduct himself on a daily basis.

With Seforno’s understanding we can now answer our question. When the Pasuk commands us to be Kadosh, it does so between the Halachot of Tum’ah and the Halachot in Kedoshim in order to teach us a valuable lesson about Kedushah. The Torah is explaining to us that there are two components in our status of Kedushah. The first component is an absence of Tum’ah; in order to achieve Kedushah we need to ensure that we are not in a status of Tum’ah. However, this is not the be all and end all of Kedushah. Rather, there is a second component to Kedushah and that is our actions. We need our actions to reflect the Kedushah that Hashem exemplifies every single minute. Only once we achieve both of these components do we achieve the true status of Kedushah.

This idea can be expanded even further. We live in a society today in which one of the main focuses is our titles. We often get caught up in making sure that we have the most prestigious title possible, whether it be CEO, Doctor, Rabbi, or Partner. These titles are extremely important to our lives, and are, in fact, positive things, as the importance of the titles of Tum’ah and Taharah in composing Kedushah indicate. But like those titles, our everyday titles also are just components of our entire beings. We cannot just let our lives be defined by our titles. Rather, we need our actions to reflect our titles and to really demonstrate the type of people we are. Only once we can allow our actions to reflect our titles, especially our most important title of “Jew,” we will, BeEzrat Hashem, achieve the most fulfilling lives.

Families and Universes by Reuven Herzog

The Atonement for Childbirth by Simcha Wagner