When the average person thinks of what it takes to be holy, I imagine that they think of the Himalayan Mountains where one can be alone, be one with themselves, nature and a Higher Power, and able to meditate. Holiness is perceived as an abstract exercise.
However, the word Kadosh – holy ― appears often in our Torah. The Shabbos and the holidays are called holy, the Tabernacle and Temple and all its functions are holy. The Kohain is holy. A first-born male is holy.
We as a nation are deemed Kadosh when G-d bestowed holiness upon us with our acceptance of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
We as individuals are commanded by G-d to maintain a level of Kedusha – holiness. This holiness pertains primarily to two categories; laws concerning our food intake, and in our separation from forbidden sexual temptations and indulgences.
The Torah instructs us categories of animals, fish and grasshopper which are permitted. The Torah also lists the 24 birds of prey that are forbidden. Our Torah commands that animals and fowl need to be properly slaughtered, deveined and salted. Blood, certain fats and the sciatic nerve of animals are forbidden. Cooking, eating and deriving benefit from the mixture of milk and meat are forbidden, as well as ingesting any type of bugs.
The Torah tells us that abiding by these laws elevate us to be holy.
The Torah in this week’s portion states, “People of holiness shall you be to Me.” What would you expect the subsequent demand to be? Well, you may be in for a surprise! It states, “You shall not eat flesh of an animal that was torn in the field.” Basically, when one refrains from road kill, he is already deemed as holy!
This is not a bad deal – for when traveling and sighting a carcass on the side of the road – how many people are claiming road kill? It’s quite unpleasant. So what then is the holy challenge?
Commentators explain that the Torah is addressing here a person who feels, “Who am I to keep the laws of Kosher? What connection do I have to G-d and holiness? The Torah tells him that by just keeping away from eating a Treifa – an animal that was mauled by another animal or vehicle – makes one a holy person. Once one feels designated as holy, he will be motivated to go a step further and add to his holiness by eating kosher food and refraining from what the Torah forbids us.
The Torah then tells us what to do with the meat of the animal that was mauled, “To the dog you shall throw it to.” Why to the dog and not to a non-Jew who is not commanded to keep the elevated holy standard of Kosher?
An answer the Ibin Ezra offers is that yes, generally speaking something that is not kosher can be given to a non-Jew, however, when an animal is mauled by another animal or killed in an accident – very likely it is unhealthy for a human being to ingest its meat, therefore the Torah states throw it to the dog whose composition can handle such unsanitary meat.
But why does the Torah specifically point out the dog? Our Sages tell us something very interesting and thought provoking. During the final plague of the slaying of the first born Egyptians, the Torah relates that there was a huge tumult and outcry due to the death of the firstborn Egyptian males and animals. However, the dogs owned by the Egyptians did not bark, in order not to disturb the Jews who were confined to their homes and had just finished eating the Pascal lamb, Matzah and Moror.
As a result of the dogs’ silence, the Torah rewarded their descendants by giving them the meat of animals that were killed in the field.
The question asked is why should the dogs be rewarded for remaining silent? After all, it wasn’t through their free will that they decided to remain silent; it was G-d Who kept them quiet!
An answer offered is that since the dogs were chosen as the conduit through which G-d displayed honor to the Jews, G-d rewarded them for posterity!
In other instances, the Torah instructs us to be holy – because G-d is Holy.
When G-d was ready to give the Torah to mankind, He looked for a nation that would exemplify His Sacred trust. The Nations of the world were contacted through their prophets and they rejected the Torah.
When the Jewish Nation accepted the Torah and its Mitzvos, which include having a benevolent character, we became the instrument through which G-d’s Glory and Majesty could be apparent in the world, for by conducting ourselves benevolently, we become His representatives.
When we follow, glorify and emulate His Ways we create a Kiddush Hashem – a sanctification of G-d’s Name – for one sees the Jew acting in accordance with G-d’s plan.