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How Holy

On the portion of Kedoshim (Holiness) in the Torah in Leviticus 12-20, the Midrash asks whether it is possible to imagine oneself as holy as G-d, and answers that it is not possible. The Torah therefore states, "for I the L-rd you G-d am holy" meaning that My level of holiness is above yours.

The Kotzker (Rabbi Menachem Mendel Halpern of Kotzk 1787-1859) asks how anyone would even ask this question in the first place. What is the basis of even asking?

The Kotzker suggests that the Midrash asks this because it wants us to think about the potential a human being has. G-d's holiness is constant, so a person might want to be like that. But people cannot be stationary, they must strive to raise their levels.

If a man were to enter the gardens surrounding a royal castle, and approach the castle, his sense of awe towards the king would increase. But his desire to see the king would increase too. Once inside the royal chambers, however, his fear is even greater. Now he needs to push to continue onwards, his awe is so great.

As one gets higher, he realizes in new and different ways that G-d's holiness is greater than his. But at the same time it is important for this realization to always make him want to be more holy. By letting G-d's level of holiness, which is stationary compared to us in the sense that it is unfathomable, be described to us as something we will never attain, it helps us continue becoming more holy. On the one hand, we know we will never be so holy that we cannot have a body, like G-d does not have a body. On the other hand, we do not have to worry that we will become haughty in the way that G-d is described in kabbala as "the Gaava", (the One Who is worthy to be Haughty).

- Adapted from and based on "...And Nothing But the Truth" by R. Oritz pg. 55 Judaica Press NY 1990

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