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Parashat Kedoshim: Complementing One Another

The Torah in Parashat Kedoshim presents a large number of Misvot, covering a very wide range of topics. This Parasha begins with G-d instructing Moshe to present these commands "El Kol Adat Beneh Yisrael" – "to the entire congregation of the Children of Israel." Rashi, based on the Midrash, explains this to mean that this section was given "Be’hak’hel" – at an assembly of the entire nation. These laws needed to be presented to everyone all together, because, Rashi explains, "Rob Gufeh Torah Teluyin Bah" – loosely translated, this section contains most of the essential principles of the Torah.

We might, however, suggest a deeper interpretation of Rashi’s comment.

The Gemara in Masechet Hulin (7) states: "Yisrael are all holy. There are those who want but do not have, and there are those who have but do not want." Some people yearn to perform Misvot and dispense kindness, but lack the resources to do so, whereas other have the resources, but lack the desire.

Surprisingly, the Gemara introduces this observation by stating, "Kol Yisrael Kedoshim" – all Jews are holy. How could the Gemara make such a comment before noting that there are those among us who have the ability to perform Misvot but do not? How can they also be holy?

Tosafot explain that the people mentioned by the Gemara do not want to give, but because they are ashamed, they bring the needy into their homes and feed them. Therefore, even they are "holy," because they give charity, albeit for less than pure motives.

The Slonimer Rebbe (Rav Shalom Noah Berezovsky, 1911-2000) explains the Gemara differently. He writes that for a Misva to be complete, it must be performed to perfection, and also accompanied by a genuine desire to serve G-d. Very often, however, people have only one without the other. Some people have the sincere desire to perform Misvot, but are unable to perform them properly, whereas others have the ability to perform Misvot, and indeed perform Misvot, but without zeal and passion for Misvot. The Slonimer Rebbe observed that in the generation of the Holocaust, there were Jews who desperately wanted to perform Misvot, but were unable to do so. They wanted so badly to eat Masa, eat in a Sukka, light Hanukah candles, wear Tefillin, and so on, but were denied these opportunities. In the generations after the Holocaust, the opposite is true. We have the opportunity to perform Misvot, and we do perform Misvot, but we lack the kind of desire and passion that Misvot deserve.

The Slonimer Rebbe proceeded to teach that when we come together in heart and spirit with the previous generations, we form complete Misvot. Our practical observance of the Misvot combines with the desire and yearning for Misvot felt by our predecessors, and then we all together are credited with the performance of perfect Misvot.

With this in mind, we could perhaps suggest an explanation of Rashi’s comment regarding Parashat Kedoshim. Rashi writes that this Parasha contains "Rob Gufeh Torah" – many Misva actions which must be performed. The word "Guf" ("body") refers to bodily actions, and thus Rashi speaks here of the practical aspect of Misvot. In order for these actions to be complete, they need the required emotion and feeling, which not everyone is capable of experiencing. And therefore, this Parasha had to be taught "Be’hak’hel," with everyone together. Hashem wanted to show the people that they need to come together in order to complement one another, such that each person contributes his or her portion. Some will be able to perform the actions, while others will be unable to perform the actions, but will be able to supply the thoughts and feelings.

We are all different. We each have very different strengths, weaknesses, skills, resources and limitations. When we harmoniously blend together, with mutual respect and unity, we complement one another and are then able to create the kind of perfect, sacred nation that we are to create. Let us strive to get along with and respect all our fellow Jews, even those who are very different from us, so we complement one another and together become the nation that Hashem wants us to be.

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