Rebecca Masinter

Parshas Kedoshim - Holiness Among the Crowds

There are only a few sections of the Torah that were said to the entirety of Bnai Yisrael together Interstingly, Parshas Kedoshim is one of them.  As the Pasuk says,

דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־כׇּל־עֲדַ֧ת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל וְאָמַרְתָּ֥ אֲלֵהֶ֖ם קְדֹשִׁ֣ים תִּהְי֑וּ כִּ֣י קָד֔וֹשׁ אֲנִ֖י ה' אֱלֹקיכֶֽם׃
Speak to the entire assembly of Bnai Yisrael and say to them, ‘you shall be holy, for I, Hashem, Your God, am holy.

The mitzvah to be holy was given to all of us together, men, women, and children.  Often when we think of holy people, we imagine someone living alone on a mountaintop in silence.  Or maybe we think of a Talmid Chacham who devotes hours to learning and praying while sitting in their book-lined, quiet study.

That is far from the reality of this mitzvah. The Alshich writes specifically that the Torah is not asking us to separate from each other so we can work on being holy and self-developed people, but rather “sheyehei davka me’urav bein habriyos” “b’hakhel”, that we should specifically be amongst other human beings, in the assembly or congregation our Parsha begins with.  In order to achieve, “kedoshim tihiyu” holiness, we have to be “b’hakhel”, amongst each other.

I find this very relevant in my life as a mother.  Firstly, it is tempting to look back and think how much holier I felt before I had children.  I davened much more, I didn't lose my patience, I learned Torah more, I was more active in chesed organizations… Maybe when I lived alone, only responsible for myself, I was a holier person? But that is incorrect.  Kedoshim Tihiyu happens amongst other people and I am much more deeply entrenched with other people amongst my husband and children than I was as a single person.  Hashem wants me to be holy as I live closely together with my family.  

And yes, that means that I won’t have as much time to devote to davening, to learning, to chesed organizations.  And yes, it even means I won’t have as much time to devote to my own personal growth and development, but that’s the point.  Kedusha doesn’t really come from isolation.  Kedusha is something I can develop and attain as I work on myself amongst my family and amongst the other people in my life.  Developing good middos is much easier before you live with others!  But true good middos come when we live with others and still work on becoming better, more sensitive, caring, and giving people.

By being mothers and having less time for ourselves, we may incorrectly think we’re not attaining kedusha.  In reality, the opposite is true.  By being amongst others, by working on self-development even as we’re distracted and tired, by giving and stretching ourselves to greater heights of patience, self-control, and love, we’re attaining kedusha as we were commanded, amongst the congregation of Bnai Yisroel.