By Moshe Feiglin
Speak to the entire Congregation of the Children of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy for I, Hashem your G-d, am holy. A person must fear his mother and father and keep My Sabbaths, I am Hashem, your G-d. (From this week’s Torah portion, Kedoshim, Leviticus 19:2-3)
You shall be holy, or in other words, separate, dedicated to a special, lofty goal. What makes you separate? Your Torah, of course. But the Torah is immense. What is the unique, essential point that separates and sanctifies us? Two commandments follow the directive to be holy: Honor of one’s parents and keeping the Shabbat. These mitzvot are the practical framework for our holiness.
The mitzvah to honor our parents is logical and accepted among all cultured nations. But Shabbat is completely opposite. Not only is there no economic logic in this mitzvah, but it is forbidden for a non-Jew to keep the Shabbat (there is a vast difference between a day of rest and keeping Shabbat). The Shabbat is a ‘sign’ between Me and you; it is a personal covenant between the Creator and the nation He adopted as His children. A non-Jew who keeps all the legal intricacies of Shabbat is bursting uninvited into someone else’s living room.
What makes us separate and sanctified is our ability to connect these two opposing concepts: logic and everyday life, natural ethics and human conduct on the one hand, with unblemished faith on the other; while both the logic and faith are subordinate to the same source: I am Hashem, your G-d.
G-d does not command us to be holy by living a life of asceticism or seclusion. Our lives must incorporate high-tech, army, education, infrastructure, police, health, tourism – all the components of a modern state. But all of this must stem from the faith-based recognition that G-d is in our midst. This is how we must fulfill G-d’s commandment to be holy.