Shaarei Yosher, sec. 2: Qedushah – part 4
2- It is more difficult to understand “My sanctity is higher than yours.” This explanation is incumbent upon us to understand – in truth there is some similarity in the holiness He expects of us to His [Holiness], except that His Holiness is more general and inclusive. If we say that the essential idea of the holiness He demands of us (in this mitzvah of “be holy”) is distance from the permissible, that kind of holiness has nothing to do with Him. וביותר קשה להבין מה שמסיק “קדושתי למעלה מקדושתכם”, דבמובן זה עלינו להבין, דבאמת יש דמיון בהקדושה שה׳ דורש מאתנו לקדושתו ית׳, אלא שקדושתו יותר כוללת ומקפת, ואם נאמר דעיקד מובן הקדושה, שה׳ דורש מאתנו במצוה זו של “קדושים תהיו” להתרחק מן המותרות, קדושה זו אינה מתיחסת כלל לה׳ ית׳.
Rav Shimon is raising objections to the naive understanding that the Sifra and the Ramban are defining holiness as separation. His first objection was that the pasuq in question continues, “ki qadosh Ani — for I am holy” and G-d’s sanctity could not possibly involve separation.
Here Rav Shimon Shkop furthers the question by discussing the next part of the medrash. We are supposed to be holy in imitation of HQBH (“for I am holy”) and yet as the Sifra emphasizes, “My sanctity is higher than yours.” G-d’s sanctity is more general and inclusive, ours a mere shadow. So, if the separation from the permissible, austerity and asceticism, were actually the definition of the qedushah we strive for, then G-d’s sanctity would necessarily not only involve separation, but be an absolute and total separation.
Rav Shim’on’s point is also implied in the Ramban’s wording. The medrash says “קדושים תהיו – פרושים תהיו — ‘be holy’ – separate yourselves”. Had the Ramban thought this was a definition, he would not have used the word qodesh; a definition that includes the word you are trying to explain is worthless. And yet the Ramban does so, when he includes a quote of the gemara’s comment on this verse “קדש את עצמך במותר לך — sanctify yourself with that which is permissable to you.
So, the Sifra is telling us that in order to be holy, we much separate from something. But holiness isn’t the separation itself. Next Rav Shim’on will relate this idea back to his definition of qedushah, that it is commitment to Hashem’s goal of bestowing His good on others.