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Weekly Thought: Being Holy

Is putting on Tefillin every day enough to make me ‘holy’? I study lots of Torah – am I considered ‘holy’? How does one fulfill the Mitzva of “be holy”? Rabbi Avrohom Brashevitzky, Shliach to Doral, FL, shares his thoughts on this week’s Parsha – Acharei-Kedoshim.

The second half of this week’s Torah reading is Parshas Kedoshim. Hashem instructs us to be holy, to behave in a holy manner. If you ask your common man what it means to be “holy”, the answer will perhaps almost always be pretty much the same. “Praying”, “studying Torah”… “you know, doing something holy…!”. Close your eyes for a moment and think of something that “looks” holy. What came to mind? A very pious looking Yid wrapped in a Talis? A Rabbi sounding the Shofar on Rosha Hashana? A Chazan dressed in a Kittel reciting U’nesaneh Tokef on Yom Kippur?

You get the point. When we think of “holiness” what immediately comes to mind is an image of someone engaged in an act of reading Torah or doing a Mitzvah such as praying, sitting in a Sukkah or conducting the Seder. What doesn’t come to mind is an image of an ordinary Yid somewhere at work – behaving in a holy manner. Certainly there’s no imagery of a simple Jew in a plumber’s outfit fixing a toilet.

This story happened many years ago in Kfar Chabad, when it was still a mostly agricultural village. A first – born male goat was born. According to Halacha this goat is a Bechor, thus it is holy. As there’s no Beis Hamikdash, there’s really nothing to be done with this goat. In fact, it’s very problematic to even take care of it (to wash, clean it etc.) as one may mistakenly make a blemish in it. Thus, this young goat would run around the entire Kfar, jumping from one garbage to another. In short, it stunk. A smart Chosid remarked: “Bekkaleh Bekkaleh (young goat), Heilig Biz-tu (indeed you are holy) Ober Shtinken Shtikzt Do (but you do stink)!

A Mashpia related this story to illustrate how one can be very “holy” yet “stink” really bad. Too often there are “Shei-neh Yidden”, so called holy Jews, who are indeed very scholarly and as far as Halacha in their personal life is concerned – they are very diligent and careful. However, sadly, when it comes to matters Bein Adam L’chaveiro – unfortunately they are not so holy… If one studies Parshas Kedoshim carefully, he will find that most of the Mitzvos discussed regard the treatment of and consideration for others.

For a good example of what it means to be a real “Holy Jew” I was inspired by the following story. Reb Zushe of Anipoli was extremely poor. Many stories told about him are associated with this fact. In this story his poor wife desperately needed a new dress. She repeatedly begged Reb Zushe to get her the dress. Reb Zushe felt very bad about this and “turned over worlds” until he was finally able to put together the money to purchase material and have the dress made.  He was so much anticipating seeing his wife happy and content.

A week and half later he noticed his wife, she didn’t appear particularly happy. He inquired why she wasn’t happy; “didn’t you just get the new dress?” The Rebbetzin explained what happened with her dress. When she went to the tailor for the final fitting the tailor appeared sad. When he removed the almost finished dress from the hanger he sighed. She insisted that he share with her what’s bothering him. He explained that his daughter had become a Kallah few weeks ago. When she observed that him working on a new dress she assumed that it’s for her… Sadly, when she came that day to try on “her dress”, he had no choice but to explain to her that he was making it for a customer in order to earn few Kopeks so he can put some food on the table.

Of course she was very sad. Worse, the Chosson having been certain that the dress was for his new Kallah was now extremely disappointed and threatening to break off the Shidduch. “I told him that they need the dress more than me! I instructed him to make the changes necessary and fix it for his daughter the Kallah!” Reb Zushe was very satisfied with his Rebbetzin’s action. However, he had a question for her: “Did you pay him for his work?” She explained that she didn’t pay him because she gave him the dress. “Oh no, Chas V’shalom we can be Oiver (transgress) the prohibition of “Lo Tolin P’ulas Sachir” (not to hold back a worker’s wages). He worked for you all this time looking forward to the pay so he may support his family. Is it his fault that you decided to do a Mitzva with the dress and give it away?!”.

The Rebbetzin proceeded to borrow money to pay the poor tailor for his work!

This is “being holy”! Being a Mentch! Being extra considerate to others. Bending a little for the benefit of a fellow Yid.

Try your best to “be holy”!

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