At the beginning of this week’s parshah, Hashem tells Moshe, “דַּבֵּר אֶל כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם” “Speak to the entire congregation of Yisrael and say to them, You shall be holy, since I, Hashem, your God, am holy” (19:2). So begins Parshas Kedoshim with a statement which controls every decision that we make over the course of our lives. Hashem tells us that we must be holy, meaning that whatever we do, it must be with the thought, “Is this something which makes me a holy person or not” behind it. But what exactly does this mean? What and how must we live our lives and go through the day as a holy person?
It is difficult to understand how we can be holy spiritually when we live in a physical world. Our first thought in what it means to be holy would be someone who could cut themselves off completely from the physical. The perfect example of this would be a Nazir. A Nazir is someone who for a 30 day period does not cut his hair, drink wine, or become tamei (spiritually impure). The Torah gives an option for someone to accept upon themselves to be a Nazir, the point of which is to separate yourself form the pleasures of this world. However, interestingly enough, when the Nazir finishes his month, he must bring a קרבן חטאת, sin-offering. Obviously, though the Nazir is on an extremely high spiritual level by the time he finishes, there is something wrong with what he is doing. So what are we supposed to do? How do we achieve this status of being holy?
The Ramban says an intriguing idea which solves this quandary. He explains that the Torah gives us mitzvos where we have to indulge in physical pleasures. For example, we have a mitzvah to eat and drink on Yom Tov. How do we justify indulging on the holiest days of the year? Think of the potential outcomes of this practice! The Ramban explains that Hashem wants us to take these purely physical activities and change them into something spiritual. Being holy doesn’t mean having to turn into something not from this world, though if you can you are truly an amazing person, it means to take what you have here in this world and change it into something spiritual.
So that’s it, that is the secret of קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ. We all have the power to make this world a very holy place and we all have the power to make ourselves just as holy. And this is not just something which you look at and say that’s nice, this is a mitzvah in the Torah which we are required to keep! Now, during this time before Shavous when we accepted the Torah, now is the time to put this into practice. To change this world into one ready to accept the Torah, a world which is completely holy, made possible by the Holy Nation.