Holiness; being holy and making things holy is an integral part of Judaism. A mere journey through our daily prayers bring us quite often to the word Kodosh – holy – in various forms. Kodosh takes a central role when we exclaim Kodosh, Kodosh, Kodosh to G-d, as we describe how the angels praise G-d in the Heavens. In the third blessing of the Amidah prayer we describe G-d as the holiest of all.
G-d imparted holiness into the world He created, such as in the Holy Temple. The Temple and its defined area was sanctified and there the sacrifices were offered and the holy Kohanim did their service. There were different levels of sanctity in the Temple; such as, the courtyard, the Altar itself, the outer sanctum and the inner Holy of Holies, which was only accessed once a year on Yom Kippur by the High Priest.
G-d invested His children, the Jewish nation, with an innate holiness. When G-d personally took us out of Egypt He chose us as an Am Kodosh – a sanctified nation. This Holy title was solidified when G-d gave us the holy Torah at Mount Sinai.
The Shabbos is a prime example of Holiness. Shabbos is called Kodesh and it defines Kodesh. The blessing we recite in all the Shabbos Amida prayers, on Kiddush Friday night, and at the conclusion blessing of the Haftorah, is, Mekadaish HaShabbos – Who sanctifies the Shabbos.
On Shabbos a Jew enters into an environment of Kedusha – sanctity – which is achieved by our adherence to refraining from the prohibited creative activities. We thus become elevated with the holiness of Shabbos.
In this week’s Parsha, the Torah speaks of the permitted and forbidden animals, fowl, fish, locust and crawling creatures. The Torah caps it off with the reason for our Kashruth laws, stating, “For I am Hashem your G-d – you shall sanctify yourselves and you will be holy – for I am holy!”
A sanctified and elevated people to whom G-d showed such love by taking them out of the Egyptian servitude – has a unique and delicate diet. Our food preparation and intake has to be fit for G-d’s regal and majestic nation.
In the Shema prayer G-d commands us to retain our holiness by refraining from following the forbidden desires of our heart. This is so that we do not defile our intrinsic holiness and create a void of holiness. G-d desires us to be holy and display proudly the mode of holiness He set forth for us.
Elisha, the student of the great prophet Elijah is described in the book of prophets as, “A man of G-d, Kodosh Hu – he is holy.”
A human being has the capacity through piety, devotion to G-d, His Torah and Mitzvos, and through humility, to attain very high levels of holiness.
Last Friday, G-d took back a most precious and holy person from our midst – Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky o.b.m. The void created by the loss of such a holy person, compelled 850,000 people to personally attend his funeral in Bnei Brak, Israel. His loss was felt by myriads who heard of him, visited him and looked up to him.
Truth be told, Reb Chaim – as he was affectionately known – never held a position in his 94 years of life. All he did was study Torah the entire time he was awake.
Yes, he was a husband, father and grandfather – but what mattered to him most was the study of G-d’s Torah – in its entirety. He lived simply and wished to be left alone. But a person so holy and disconnected from all other interest of life does not go unnoticed.
Reb Chaim was brilliant – he had a photographic mind and never forgot anything he studied. He reviewed and reviewed and he had automatic recall of the finest details of Torah.
With his saintly father’s passing some 37 years ago, the world turned to Reb Chaim for their questions on Torah and sought his blessing and advice. He responded to tens of thousands of inquiries by mail and in person.
Reb Chaim accommodated the throngs of people during the hours that he set aside each day. He was not a conversationalist, he said few words, but they were invested with a purity, holiness and keen insight. Miracles came about through the blessings he gave!
In the days following his passing, secular Jews wrote the most heartfelt feelings about their encounters with Reb Chaim. Yes, at first they were skeptical about meeting him. But upon seeing him, his sincerity, his humble abode, and that he did not accept money for a visit, they were captured by his holiness and were forever inspired.
We are all holy and continually attain holiness through our devotion and attachment to G-d, His Torah and fulfilling His Mitzvos. There are those who dedicate their lives more devotedly to G-d and their holiness is felt – and then there was Reb Chaim!
It is a real loss for each of us. We all benefitted from his prayers, guidance and holiness. With his passing we feel a void from all the protective powers he afforded.
When we strive to inch that much closer to the holiness G-d wants from us – we are assured to be blessed and protected by the Almighty Himself!