אחרי מות שני בני אהרן
“After the death of the two sons of Aharon.” (Vayikra 16:1)
קדושים תהיו כי קדוש אני ה'
“You shall be holy, because I Hashem am holy.” (Ibid. 19:2)
Our sages ask: How can Hashem command that we be holy because He is holy? It is impossible for a human being to come close to Hashem’s holiness! He is the source of all holiness and His kedusha fills the entire world. How can it be expected of a person, who has an animalistic soul within himself, to be holy because so is Hashem?
The Torah commands, “And you shall not come any time (b’chal eis) into the Sanctuary.” The Avodas Yissoschar quotes a verse in Koheles (9:8): “At all times (b’chal eis) your clothes shall be white, and oil upon your head shall not be lacking.” The person’s clothes refer to his actions and deeds. Not only must we be careful to be holy, but our actions must be pure as well. The Ateres Tzvi takes this a bit further and writes that a person must think of himself as if he is wearing perfectly white clothes and walking around with a cup of oil on his head. If he makes a wrong move, the oil will spill and his beautiful clothes will be stained. This is how careful a person must be before doing anything, because with one hasty and thoughtless action the person can stain his soul.
What happens if a person has unfortunately already sinned, and his soul is no longer sparkling white? He may lose the motivation to continue guarding his actions. The yetzer hara may convince him that the oil has already spilled all over him, so what point is their in being careful not to get his soiled clothing a bit more dirty? This is the meaning of the Torah’s command: “Do not come into My Sanctuary any time – b’chal eis.” Do not think that only if you fulfill the “b’chal eis” – the obligation to keep your clothes white b’chal eis, at all times – only then can you come into My Sanctuary. Even if your clothes became dirty and your actions are less than perfect, you can still cleanse yourself and become holy. And do not think that you must be perfectly clean; as long as you try to do your best you are always welcome in My Sanctuary.
How indeed can a person cleanse himself from his sins and become worthy of being close to Hashem? Hashem tells us: “Open for Me an opening that is as small as the eye of a needle, and I will open for you a large opening, like the entrance of a chamber.” The holy Ropshitzer Rav zt”l, whose yartzeit is on 11 Iyar, asks: How do we create an opening the size of the eye of a needle? He answers that the key to creating the initial opening is through prayer. We must pray to Hashem that we should be able to find an opening in our hearts. In fact, the words li pesach – “for Me an opening,” have the numerical value of the word hatefillah – prayer.
The holy tzaddik of Kamarna (whose yartzeit is also these days, on 10 Iyar), teaches that nowadays when it is much more difficult for a person to become holy and purify himself, every bit of effort is a lot more valued by Hashem than in previous generations when the people were on a higher spiritual level altogether. Although our service of Hashem cannot be compared to the great, elevated service of our forbears, it is very precious and dear to Hashem. In fact, we sometimes have a greater chance of earning a portion of Olam Habbah than the people of past generations, because with just a little bit of effort we can achieve much greater things and bring tremendous pleasure to Hashem.
We can now see how these two sidros combine to teach us an important lesson. Aharon’s two sons were exceptionally great; they were even greater than Moshe and Aharon! They died in their efforts to come extremely close to Hashem, because with such great people, Hashem was much more exacting in His judgment.
Today, we cannot even fathom such greatness. In our days, if we strive to come into Hashem’s Sanctuary and serve Him, we should remember that new leniencies apply to us. Even if our clothes are not completely white at all times, we can still come into Hashem’s presence and get close to Him. We will not be held up to the same standards of holiness as Aharon’s sons were.
This is why Hashem commands of us to be holy, because He is holy. Hashem is reminding us that indeed, because He is the source of holiness, we can become holy ourselves. Although it may seem difficult or even impossible, we should remember that Hashem is holy and He can help us come close to Him. We just need to pray to Him, to open our hearts a crack – the size of the eye of a needle, and He will pull us closer to Him.
May Hashem help that every Jew should be able to purify himself and become holy, and through this may we all merit being blessed with Hashem’s bounty. May everyone be helped with whatever he needs, and may we all merit greeting Moshiach speedily, in our days, Amen.