Headlines »

June 8, 2024 – 11:29 pm | Comments Off on The Ultra Orthodox Draft40 views

Amid Israel’s war in Gaza, there is talk of drafting yeshivah students into the army to bolster its ranks. On Shavuot, we celebrate the anniversary of receiving the Torah, so I want to write about the role of Torah in war. The Torah is not just a dusty old book …

Read the full story »
Parsha Insights

Where Biblical law and Torah tale is brought vividly to life


The Jewish perspective on topical and controversial subjects

Life Cycle

Probing for meaning in our journey and its milestones.

Yearly Cycle

Discover depth and mystique in the annual Jewish festivals

Rabbi’s Desk

Seeking life’s lessons in news items and current events

Home » K'doshim

K’doshim : Exclusive Dedication

Submitted by on May 6, 2005 – 3:35 pmNo Comment | 2,344 views

Sanctity and Dedication

Our Parsha begins this week with an anomalous command for an anomalous reason. “Sanctify yourself,” the Torah instructs us,
“for I am sanctified.” (1) How does one sanctify oneself? and what exactly is the Torah referring to when it tells us that G-d is
sanctified? Furthermore, why does the fact that G-d is sanctified require it of us.

In Hebrew the word Kedusha, which means sanctity, is used also in a betrothal context. For millennia Jews have
declared their betrothal under the Chupah with the words “thou are hereby sanctified to me.” How does a bride become sanctified to a

To be sanctified means to be dedicated. Dedication implies separation. It means that the bride has undertaken to separate
herself from all other men and dedicated herself to her bridegroom alone. In this sense the bridegroom is also sacred for he too has
undertaken to separate himself from all other women and has dedicated himself to his bride alone.exclusive dedication innerstream Theirs is an exclusive dedication.

One cannot be truly dedicated to any one cause unless s/he has first divested him / herself from all other causes. One can be partially dedicated to many causes, but only fully dedicated to one cause and by definition full dedication to one cause requires full divestment from all other causes.

The Exclusive G-d

So the commandment to sanctify ourselves is simply a commandment to dedicate ourselves. But dedicated to what you might ask? The very next words “For I (G-d) am sanctified,” answer this question. To whom should I be dedicated? To G-d, who himself is sanctified.

The next logical question is why? Why should I sanctify myself for G-d? Why should I separate myself from all other considerations? The answer is, because G-d is himself sanctified. Because G-d is exalted, separated from all worldly affairs. So if I am going to truly bond with G-d I too
will need to transcend all worldly considerations. This is one fence that cannot be straddled. I can either be on the worldly level or on
G-d’s level but I cannot be on both levels at once. (2)

G-d is exclusive. When I make space for G-d then there should be no space left for others and if I’ve reserved space for others then there was not
enough space left for G-d. Of course G-d is also patient  If he doesn’t have all of me today he is prepared to wait until I’m ready but
he has no intention of settling for any less than all of myself.

All Things Permitted

Our sages took this instruction to a whole new level when they interpreted this commandment in the following way. “Sanctify yourself,” they said, “with that which is otherwise permitted to you.” In plain words this means that we must separate ourselves even from those pursuits that are permitted to us according to Jewish law.

There is no question that we must divest ourselves from that which is forbidden by Jewish law, that goes without saying. But G-d wanted more than that. He wanted us to surrender even those little pleasures that he has permitted us. At this point you must be thinking, but hey rabbi, didn’t you just say that G-d permitted them? If they’re permitted than why can’t I have them?

I would argue that it is not about separating the permitted pleasures from ourselves it is about separating ourselves from those pleasures. If our incentive for a particular pursuit is not G-dly but personal, then we cannot afford to be dedicated to that pursuit if we also want to be dedicated to the divine.

Let’s consider an example, say I told you that I wanted to go on a vacation. My one statement would have included two distinctive points. The fact that I have a desire, and that the object of my desire is a vacation.

Both points have relevance and must be examined, so let’s first examine the object of my desire. Is there any thing wrong with the vacation I desire? Let’s find out. Am I trying to run away from something important at home? Can I afford a vacation at this time? Will my vacation environment support Kosher food and an ethical life style? If the answer is no then your answer might be, sorry but you can’t have
this particular desire, its forbidden. If the answer is yes then your answer might be, by all means go right ahead and enjoy!

Now even if the vacation itself is kosher we must still examine the first point, the fact that I have a desire. And now we have come to the crux of the matter. Is it OK that I have a desire? By that I mean, is it right for me to make so much of myself that I always take my desires seriously
merely because I desire them?

Separation From Self

Our Parsha tells us that the answer is no. If I want to be truly dedicated to G-d then I must be fully sanctified, fully divested from all other
pursuits, including even pursuit of myself and my desires. I must take myself out of the equation because I cannot be dedicated to myself and
G-d at the same time. (3)

This doesn’t mean that I must deny myself all permitted things and can never have anything I desire. It simply means that I shouldn’t take every vacation I desire only because I desire it.

I must first ask myself the following question. Can I think of a single reason why G-d would want me to take this vacation? If the answer is no then I ought to hold off and wait till I think G-d would want me to take it, even if the vacation is fully kosher. If the answer is yes then I should move full steam ahead and enjoy my vacation but let’s remember that I didn’t take it because I wanted it but because G-d wanted it

How can I know if G-d wants me to take a vacation or not. In our heart of hearts we all know the answer to that. If there are more important places I could be or more important things I should do then it is better that I wait and take my vacation a different time.

In Conclusion

G-d says, “Sanctify yourself.” Our sages say “Separate yourself from the things permitted to you.” All things considered, we need not deny
ourselves that which is permitted to us. We need only separate ourselves from them and do them for reasons greater than ourselves.

Don’t ask yourself if you want to go on vacation ask yourself if G-d wants you to go.


  1. Leviticus 19, 1
  2. See
    Sifra on Leviticus 11,44 Just as I am holy so shall you be holy. See
    also Ramban on Leviticus 19, 1.(Nachmanides, R. Moshe Ben Nachman,
    Spain 1194-1270) Finally see Tanya Chapter 27. (R. Schneeur Zalman of
    Liadi, founder of Chassidus Chabad, 1745 – 1813)
  3. G-d
    says of the arrogant minded that he and i cannot reside together in the
    same world. This means that we cannot occupy the space that another has
    already occupied. If we leave space for G-d then he is free to occupy
    it but if we take up some space for ourselves then G-d is denied access
    to that space. Hence, G-d says that he and I cannot reside in the same