Exodus 21:1 – 24:18
You Shall Be Holy
Is holiness—that ideal we project upon heroic and saintly figures in all spiritual traditions—an achievable goal, even if we were to follow perfectly the entire 613 Mitzvot that Judaism sets before us as a practice? Isn’t God, by making such a demand of perfection of the fallible beings that we are, de facto abrogating the very Covenant He is wanting to enter into with us? Surely God knows better than to ask what is beyond human reach.
So how do we solve this dilemma? Given the text and God’s imperative, we are left with the only variable: the reader, the translator—the interpreter. What if we first asked ourselves: “Who is reading these words?” If we are able to listen carefully, we will notice that the part of self that is reading God’s words as a command that we be holy, is the striving part of self; the part of self that believes it can be perfected, the aspect of our being which lives in a world of “should” and beats itself up when it doesn’t meet its own expectations. In other words, only the ego is that part of self capable of reading God’s words as a demand made upon it.
But we can read these words at a very different level; a level which assumes that what looks to the ego like God’s commanding, is but a statement, an acknowledgment of Truth. The translation of Exod. 19:5-6 would, then, read: “… I manifest as all of Creation, therefore, as expressions of Me… you are holy.” That kind of realization, beyond the grasp of the ego, sets the Covenant itself at a different level. We are not to strive to become what we are not, we are to let the holiness of the Divine we are flow through us as unencumbered as possible. The laws of the Torah are not there to coerce us into becoming holy; they are there to help us clear out the obstacles, the resistances, which prevent us from being the clearest channels possible for that Holy One to manifest through us. God needs us, as the unique beings that we are, to fulfill such a task.