Monday, August 3, 2015

Rabbeinu Bachye:Holiness is restricting unnecessary pleasures - to serve G-d properly

Rabbeinu Bachye (Kad haKemach Kedusha): A G-d dreaded in the council of the holy ones and feared by all of them that are around him. (Tehilim 89:8). The attribute of holiness (kedusha) is a powerful and amazing attribute. A person acquires it through the attribute of purity (tahara) because that is the necessary sequence of the development of attributes as is stated by our Sages (Avoda Zara 20b), “Purity leads to holiness”. The Yerushalmi )Sotah 14b) brings support for this from Vayikra (16:19), And he shall purify it and sanctify it. I have already mentioned in the section of Purity (taharah) that we are commanded by the Torah (Vayikra 11:44), And you shall sanctify yourself and you shall be holy. The Torah (Vayikra 19:2) also says, You shall be holy because I your G d am holy.

The nature of this holiness (kedusha) that we have been commanded is avoidance (prishus). In other words a person needs to protect himself from sin and lusts by avoiding even that which the Torah permits – as our Sages said, “Sanctify yourself even with that which is permitted to you.” Thus concerning eating and drinking – he should eat and drink less then what he wants – just enough to sustain his body. He should engage in sexual intercourse only for the purpose of procreation, or for his wife’s conjugal rights (onah) or to prevent sinful thoughts. All other motivations are prohibited by the Torah. Similarly in regard to speech he should restrict himself to speak only after careful deliberation and less then is necessary. Except for that which is necessary for his spiritual well-being such as talking matters of Torah or those required for his physical needs such as his livelihood and sustenance. One should also restrain himself concerning touching any part of his body with his bare hands – especially below his belt. It was because of exercising restraint in not touching his lower body that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi was called the Holy Rabbi as is stated in Shabbos (58b). All these restraints are part of being holy and self-restrained (prishus).

And thus our Sages explained in Toras Cohanim, “And you shall sanctify yourselves become holy (Vayikra 11:44). This verse teaches that just as G-d is holy so should you be holy. Just as G-d shows self-restraint you should also show self-restraint." Thus holiness is defined as one who is separated and restrained from lust and he is fully focused on serving G-d. Thus there is a great benefit and need for the Torah to write “And you shall sanctify yourselves and become holy.” Because if it hadn’t been written, a person would simply gorge himself on food and drink – because they would have been unconditionally permitted. He would have eaten and enjoyed all things which taste good – simply because they are pleasurable. Similarly with speech - he would have uttered all the thoughts that came to mind. The lack of restriction would result in his becoming disgusting with all types of bad habits such as being a unrestrained glutton, or alcoholic – all because there would have been no restriction in the Torah concerning pleasure. Consequently this mitzva of being holy is stated after the listing of prohibited foods in the Torah. This teaches us that being holy means that a person not only must avoid prohibited food but even eating permitted food is only according to what he genuine needs - not solely because they give him pleasure. Therefore this mitzva of being holy comes in the section of prohibited foods to tell you a person needs to restrain himself in eating – and surely if the food itself is prohibited - because restraint in avoiding permitted food is also necessary. So if a person who avoids consuming prohibited foods is called holy, then surely one who restrains himself in eating that which is permitted is called holy. Because a person needs to subjugate and break his lusts and destroys his desires in the mortar of his intellect for the honor of G-d his Creator.[…]

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