Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Rav Tzadok: Holiness is not asceticism

Tzadok Rav (Kedoshim Tehiyu #3): What is the meaning of the phrase, "Sanctify yourself with that which is permitted?" It says in Toras Cohanim (beginning of Parshas Kedoshim), “You shall be holy” (kedoshim tehiyu) means you shall be perushim (ascetics).” The Ramban says that there is a separate mitzva to minimize that which is permitted in order that you shouldn’t be a disgusting person within the realm of that which is permitted by the Torah.  For example our Sages (Berachos 22a) say that Torah scholars should not be overly sexually involved with their wives like chickens. And this is true of other pleasures. See Ramban’s commentary to the Torah where he discusses this at length. He brings a proof to this assertion from a Nazir. He is called “holy” (kodosh) because of his avoiding certain pleasures which are generally permitted by the Torah. The Maharsha (Yevamos 20a) also cites this as proof.

 However it says in Vayikra Rabba (24:4), Just as I am parush (ascetic) you should also be and just as I am holy (kodesh) you should also be holy as it says in the Torah – kodesh tehiyu (you shall be holy).  This description is also found in Torah Cohanim (end of Parshas Kedoshim) for the verse, And you shall be kesdoshim (holy) to me.  Thus we see – contrary to the Ramban - that asceticism (perishus) and holiness (kedusha) are not the same thing  but nevertheless they are both included in the word kedoshim in the Torah verses. We also see in the hierarchy mentioned in Avoda Zara (20a) that perishus and kedusha are two separate attributes. Rashi states that perishus (asceticism) applies even from that which is permitted in order to be stringent. This implies that kedusha (holiness) is distinct from perishus and is a higher level. Consequently we can  say that the general meaning of perishus is just to avoid all types of lust and desires – which is the literal meaning of the word perishus. The Mishna Sotah(20a)  states, “A female ascetic (isha perusha) and the wounds of perushim (asceticism)”. Look at the gemora’s (Sotah 22a) explanation as well as Rashi. Sotah (22b) says, There are seven types of perushim... they do the disgusting deeds of Zimri...” Thus we see that separation alone is the essence of perushus. From the Torah verses we see that separation or avoidance of desires is included in the word kedusha but it only the beginning of the process of kedusha. A man begins the process of holiness in this mundane world by means of avoiding lusts for permitted things. However the language of our Sages in the Talmud divides it into two processes

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