Friday, April 19, 1985
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
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Dietary Laws Are Key
To Concept Of Holiness
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BY RABBI JAMES I. GORDON
Special to The Jethish News
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Of all the Jewish values, none is,
so vague and indefinable on the
surface as holiness. The holy man
is usually pictured as an
emaciated unworldly ascetic, lost
in contemplation, head in the
clouds, occasionally coming down
from the heights to offer guidance
to lesser mortals.
At the heart of rabbinic ethics is
the concept of holiness. The goal of
Jewish aspiration is not happi-
ness, but holiness. It is through
holiness that man achieves the
maximum moral relationship
with God and his fellow man.
Contrary to the prevailing sup-
position holiness is not a vague,
nebulous, pietistic, mystical state
of being that enables a man to
withdraw from the world and
limit himself to prayer and ritual
alone, but rather a program at-
•tainable for all.
In the Torah, the theme of Holi-
ness carries both positive and
negatie commands. From the
verse found in this week's reading
"Sanctify yourselves, therefore,
and be you holy for I am holy"
(Lev. 11:44), we derive the concept
of imitatio dei to imitate God's vir-
tues of goodness, graciousness,
patience, tolerance, truth etc.
From the latter phrase, "you shall
not defile your souls," we learn of
the necessity to withdraw from
that which is impure, abominable
and repulsive. Man must learn to
avoid that which might defile
both physically and spiritually.
In a striking statement in the
Talmud, Pinhas Ben Yair tells usj
"Heedfulness leads to cleanliness,
cleanliness leads to purity, purity
leads to holiness." • The Holiness
Code does not begin in Leviticus
19, which is the source of all man's
ethical and moral behavior, but
rather here in the Sidra of She-
I Samuel 20:18-42.
mini with the introduction of the
dietary laws. First place is given
to food \because daily diet affects
man's whole being. The attain-
ment of a highly sophisticated
ethical code is largely dependent
on the physical habits and prac-
tices of man. Ever since the
Exodus from Egypt and the re-
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