Friday, April 18, 2008

ACHAREI MOT: HOLINESS EMPOWERED

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Dedicated to my father, obm, on his birthday, April 18.

Are the goals of Judaism limited to its elites, or is there a true democratic impulse at work, seeking to permeate all societal strata?

Kedoshim Tihiyu. You (plural) shall be holy. The plural sense of the verb indicates that holiness, while taught and exemplified by the kohanic priestly class, is an ideal which must spread out and permeate the collective Israel polity.

Holiness is the raison d'etre of Israel's entire being. Thus we see that the central animating idea of Israel's consciousness is not the sole select property of an elitist oligarchical class. Rather, all Israel is enjoined to embody the defining characteristics of the nation's ideal. Indeed, Israel's rise and fall is contingent on the degree of the very success of this notion.

In this sense the command to embrace holiness in both the communal sense as well as the personal sense anticipates the democratic ideal of the empowerment of the individual. By contrast, undemocratic regimes, be they organizations or national governments, rely on classist models of exclusion to buttress their rule. Indeed we find that dictatorships surround themselves with yes men who serve with sycophantic excess at the expense of the true needs of the people, who are treated largely as a giant feedbag with which to satiate the enormous egotistical needs of the ruler.

The rulers must by necessity lie to the people over and over again to justify their abuse of power. But the people usually see through the lies and upon the passing of the the dictator express their glee by eviscerating all iconic reminders of their oppression. Dictators may control the graves, mass or otherwise, but they don't control the hearts of the people.

On the other hand we see that true leaders who serve the people above their own interests are appreciated all the more only after their passing. It has been remarked that the parsha headings "Acharei Mot (after death)/ Kedoshim(holy ones)" bespeak a deep truth, that true leaders, while perhaps villified for speaking the truth, are only finally appreciated properly after they are gone.

Moses's ordeals as leader of Israel typify this notion. Moses spoke only the truth- whether adjuring Pharaoh for his stubborn obduracy or the people of Israel for their stubborn sinfullness. His decisions and leadership were constantly second-guessed, belittled and criticized, his motives perpetually suspect and doubted by a nation genetically given to free expression.

But he submerged his own ego in the service of Hashem, whose very seal is truth. Accordingly, Hashem felt his pain. His pain became Hashem's pain. Thus his deep pain was assuaged in the healing balm of Hashem's love.

Many people truly are not fully alive because their ego does not resonate with Hashem's will. They fear death as a final end. In their obsession with death, to the degree of their obsession, they prevent themselves from truly living.

Living lives that reflect holiness is the unifying interface between ourselves and Hashem. Our souls are then properly tended, given the proper nutrition with which to take root in the Garden of Eden. Although his exact grave is a mystery, Moses is linked eternally with life for he embraced and taught holiness.

All who link their lives to the Torah's teachings and embrace holiness in their daily lives are granted eternal life. Holiness, as expressed in one's piety, one's morality, one's business ethics, is within the purview and reach of each individual in society. Those who live by the Torah's holiness codes and aspire to do better in the face of setbacks, are thus given the keys to eternity. It is accessable by all. It is a truly empowering notion. This is no lie.This is truth.

Shabbat Shalom

© 2000 - 2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.

My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas.
Contact me privately at niggun@aol.com
(niggun means wordless spiritual melody, the highest kind there is).

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When I was young I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.- Abraham Joshua Heschel
The whole world is a very narrow bridge. And the most important thing is to not be afraid.
-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
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About Me

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United States
I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!