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The Torah states, “V’atem tihiu li mamleches kohanim v’goy kadosh – You should be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” The million-dollar question is: What exactly does it mean to be holy? How does one attain such a lofty title?

Rashi equates holiness with prishus (separation). He specifically highlights the evils of immorality, teaching us, “Kol makom she’atah motzei geder ervah, sham attah motzei kedushah – Wherever you find a fence against promiscuity, there you will find holiness.”


Thus, in contemporary terms, one who stays away from the immodesties of Netflix and Amazon Prime is taking a big stride towards kedushah. Of course, Rashi’s definition is not restricted to immorality. A person who guards himself from senseless hated, sinful gossip, and hurtful words is also embracing a life of holiness.

The Ramban approaches the path to kedushah in a different way. He says a person who aspires to holiness must view the world as more than a big amusement park. His purpose can’t be fun in the sun, satisfaction of the palate, and a host of other material pursuits. The road to holiness lies in him focusing on spiritual pursuits and giving nachas to Hashem.

In the words of the Sefer Chareidim: Life is a sandbox in which we rummage for the pearls of Torah, mitzvos, and maasim tovim.

Rav Shimon Shkop, in his seminal work Shaarei Yosher, writes that the definition of kedushah is being like Hashem. Thus, just as He desires to l’heitiv l’acheirim – to do good to others – so must we. We can’t to live a self-centered existence. The great Rav Elya Lapian maintains that we ascend to kedushah through character perfection.

I would like to add a humble addition. Perhaps kedushah also means being good through and through, not just superficially. And that’s perhaps why only we Jews who are commanded to be holy also have commands that seek to purify our hearts and minds.

For example, we are exhorted, “Lo sisna es achicha bilvavecha – Do not hate your brother even in your heart.” We are commanded, “Lo sachmod,” not to covet what isn’t ours. We are warned “Lo sitar,” not to even nurse a grudge in our heart. These Torah expectations don’t allow for a superficial attitude. they require wholesomeness and, yes, holiness.

In the merit of us studying this all-important topic, may Hashem bless us with holiness, good health, happiness, and everything wonderful.


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Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss is rav of the Agudath Yisroel of Staten Island. A popular writer and lecturer his Torah column appears weekly in The Jewish Press. Learn mishnayos with Rabbi Weiss by dialing 718-906-6471 or Orchos Chaim l’HaRosh by dialing 718-906-6400 (selection 4 twice). To engage Rabbi Weiss as a lecturer or to order his “Power Bentching,” call 718-916-3100 or e-mail To receive a weekly tape or CD from him, send a check to Rabbi Weiss, P.O. Box 140726, Staten Island, NY 10314, or e-mail him. Attend Rabbi Weiss’s weekly shiur at the Landau Shul (Avenue L and East 9th), Tuesday nights, at 9:30 p.m. Some of his shiurim are available on his Facebook page and Sheldon Zeitlin transcribes his articles.
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