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oliness is of a twofold nature; it begins as a quality of the service rendered to God, but it ends as a reward for such service. It is at first a type of spiritual effort, and then a kind of spiritual gift. A man must first strive to be holy, and then he is endowed with holiness. Thus said our Sages, “For every little effort that a man puts forth to become holy, Heaven endows him with much holiness. If he sanctifies himself on earth, he is sanctified also in Heaven” (Yoma 39a). The effort referred to consists in abstaining and keeping aloof from whatever is grossly material, and in clinging at all times and at all hours to that which is godly. Thus are the prophets called “messengers of God,” as in the following verse, “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 2.7). And elsewhere we read, “They mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets” (II Chron. 36.16). There is no break in the communion which the soul of such a man holds with the Most High, even while he performs those functions which his physical nature demands, as it is said, “My soul cleaveth unto Thee: Thy right hand holdeth fast” (Ps. 63.9). But since it is impossible for a man to attain this status through his own efforts—for he is, after all, only a physical being, mere flesh and blood—holiness has to be finally granted to him as a gift. The best that a man can do is to strive to attain true knowledge, and to be assiduous in the study of that which may sanctify his actions. But, in the last resort, it is the Holy One, blessed be He, who leads man in the path he has chosen, and who imparts to him some of His own holiness, thereby rendering him holy. It is only then that man succeeds in being in continual communion with God, blessed be He; for whenever nature would prevent him, God comes to his help and grants him His aid, as it is said, “No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Ps. 84.12). The crucial difference between the middah of kedushah and all those that have Chapter 26 h Concerning the Trait of Holiness 267 H 268 Mesillat Yesharim h come before it is that with kedushah, the infinite horizon toward which impossible wakefulness is pointing, exits the realm of rational discourse and enters the intersection of the rationally possible and the mystery of consciousness itself. Kedushah, in the end, can only be experienced, not described, and experience is fundamentally “more real” than any discourse that describes reality. Accordingly, our Sages have said, “If a man makes the least effort to be holy, he is helped by Heaven to attain greater holiness than he strives for” (Yoma 39a). This is the intent of the sages’ statement: that which is totally other than any thought we can render within the limits of rational discourse establishes itself as a more fundamental reality than any thought or experience. When a man is endowed with holiness by his Creator, even his physical actions become literally a means to holiness. As an evidence, we have the fact that the eating of the flesh of the sin-offering is commanded in the Torah. “The priests eat of the flesh of the sin-offering,” said our Sages, “and the sin of the one who brought the offering is forgiven” (Sifra to Lev. 10.17). At the level of kedushah, the seeming conflict between the physical and the spiritual is rendered moot. Body and soul, yetzer ha-ra and yetzer ha-tov, are not eliminated but aligned; not unified but harmonized. Rather than compete, they complete infinitely the task to which they are assigned. See now the difference between purity and holiness. One who is merely pure regards his bodily functions as compulsory, and it is with that fact in mind that he yields to the necessity of performing them. They are thereby redeemed from the category of evil, which necessarily inheres in whatever is physical, and are rendered pure. These functions, nevertheless, do not belong, as far as he is concerned , to the category of holiness, since he would prefer to dispense with them altogether, if he could. But...


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