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March 13, 1992 - Image 54

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-03-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

TORAH PORTION

I

HILLEL DAY SCHOOL

Book Of Leviticus:
The Book Of Holiness

RABBI REUVEN DRUCKER

Special to The Jewish News

F

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rom the Torah's point of
view, who is considered
a holy person and by
what yardstick can we
measure holiness? The
answer, I believe, is found in
the third book of the Bible.
According to one of the
great biblical commentators
of recent times, Rabbi David
Tzvi Hoffman (c. 1875,
Berlin), the entire book of
Leviticus can be seen as an
amplification of one verse
mentioned earlier in the
Torah.
Before the revelation at Mt.
Sinai, God gave the Jewish
people a preview of the
changes that Torah obser-
vance would make in their
lives, if they elected to
accept the Commandments.
Through Moses, He told
them, "You will be for Me a
kingdom of priests and a ho-
ly nation (Ex. 19:6)."
When the Jewish people
unequivocally accepted the
Torah, they were given the
book of Leviticus in order to
teach them how to become a
"kingdom of priests" and a
"holy nation."
But what would a "king-
dom of priests" look like, and
how does a "holy nation"
behave?
Jews are divided into three
castes: Kohen (priest), Levite,
and Israelite. The Kohen's
primary task is to perform
the sacrificial service in the
Holy Temple (as outlined in
the first 17 chapters in
Leviticus), and by so doing,
establish a very close rela-
tionship with God. Although
Temple sacrifice is certainly
foreign to our experience —
and has even been erroneous-
ly regarded by some as
primitive — our tradition tells
us that the opportunity it pro-
vided for establishing a close
individual relationship with
God was unparalleled.
As the Chasidic masters ex-
plain, man impacts on this
world through his thought,
speech, and physical activity.
All three avenues of human
endeavor play a central role
as the individual brings his
sacrifice and dedicates both
it, and himself, to the Divine.
Additionally, our sages ex-
plain that the Holy Temple
served not only as the
domicile for Divine service,
but also as a representation of
this world — a microcosm.
The Kohen poured heart and

Reuven Drucker is rabbi at
Young Israel of Greenfield.

soul into his temple activities
in order to relate and cling to
the Almighty.
Similarly, the Jew who
stood outside the temple and
viewed the Kohen's efforts
was to follow the Kohen's ex-
ample and attempt to use his
home and his involvement in
the world at large as levers to
catapult to a closer relation-
ship with God. But, as one
engages in this process, he
must be cognizant of those
behaviors which run contrary
to his objectives. Thus, the
Torah proscribes certain types
of conduct which create bar-
riers between the sensitive
soul and its Source, such as
eating non-kosher animals (so
that "you do not defile your
souls" in Lev. 11:44), behav-

Vayikra,
Shabbat Zachor:
Leviticus 1:1-5:26,
Deuteronomy
25:17-19.
I Samuel 15:2-34.

ing contrary to the command-
ments (which incurs the need
for the cleansing of Yom Kip-
pm-, see Lev. 16), and coming
into contact with sources of
defilement that would con-
taminate the body (Lev.
12-15).
In reward for maintaining
lofty aspirations for a close
relationship with the Divine,
God reciprocates: "I will
make My dwelling place
among you . . . and I will walk
among you" (Lev. 26:11,12).
Thus, a "kingdom of
priests" is a description of the
Jewish people when they
rivet their attention on
deepening their relationship
with the Almighty. But, since
these yearnings alone do not
guarantee that we will
become a "holy nation," the
later half of Leviticus teaches
us how to instill holiness in-
to our daily lives.
Holiness demands that man
transcend his physical nature
and commit himself entirely
to God, without reservation.
The first area of holiness the
Torah addresses (Lev. 18, 20)
is procreation, one of the most
powerful instinctual drives.
Unbridled expressions of sex-
uality degrade human digni-
ty, for they place the human
being on a par with the
animal. Man, however, has
the ability to refrain from
temptations, while animals
do not.
When the Jew regulates
this intimate area of life ac-

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