The Destiny of Difference by Rabbi Darren Blackstein


After spending much time delivering Mitzvot that inject a sense of holiness and morality into the fabric of our behavior both as individuals and as a people, the Torah returns to a familiar kind of ending of Parashat Kedoshim that we find by Parashat Shemini. Both endings emphasize our being holy unto Hashem. This holiness is manifested in our observing laws that require us to differentiate between several things. We must differentiate between domesticated animals, birds, and slithering animals; each of which may be Tamei or Tahor. In chapter 20, verse 26 the Torah tells us that Hashem states the following: We are to be holy unto Hashem because Hashem is holy and that we have been separated from the other nations to be His. What is this telling us? Hashem is holy and we seemingly acquire holiness by having been separated from the other nations by Hashem. Therefore, we are the recipients of the process of Havdalah, differentiation, as done to us by Hashem. He engaged us in the process of Havdalah, which actually gives us holiness.

Now, the implication seems to be that in order to reflect this state, we, in turn, must engage in the process of Havdalah in certain areas of our behavior. We are told that this behavior will steer us away from consuming anything that is an abomination to the soul. Such behavior would, presumably, fly in the face of our being separated from other nations that don’t differentiate in those matters. Therefore, our being different is preserved by our observance of these differences. But is that all it takes? Just copy some behavior and we magically become special?

Rashi, on this Pasuk, quotes a beautiful Midrash. Rebbe Elazar Ben Azaryah says, “How do I know that a person should not say ‘pig is disgusting to me’, or ‘I do not desire to wear kilayim’ but rather that while he actually wants to do it, My Father in Heaven has decreed otherwise. Therefore the Torah says, ‘I have separated you from the other nations to be unto Me, to be separated Lishmi- for My sake.’”          

Rashi seems to be using this Midrash to tell us that our being holy is truly a function of a particular mindset that, yes, is demonstrated by mirroring Hashem’s behavior. When we differentiate between those various items, we do not do so out of a personal sense of repulsiveness, we do it out of a personal sense of following the pattern of separation as modeled by Hashem. It’s more than obeying just because Hashem said so! Yes, it is Chok-like in nature, but as Rebbe Elazar says, it is the way we can be LiShmi— dedicated for the sake and Name of Hashem. We are to be like Hashem. Hashem engages in Havdalah and so too must we. It is the crucial element in being dedicated for His Name.

This sense of LiShmi is echoed now, at this time of the year more than any other time. Amidst memorials for the Holocaust and military Korbanot, and amidst celebrations for the existence and independence of Israel and Jerusalem, we must be guided by this sense of LiShmi— doing this LiShem Hashem. We may be tempted by extreme emotions due to the sensitivity of the issues. In order to stay loyal and faithful to our mission, let us always keep in mind that we are defined by our origin. We were separated to be dedicated to Hashem and this must be the driving force behind all of our goals.

The Purpose of Mitzvot by Chaim Metzger

The Spiritual Sickness by Max Shulman