Shaarei Yosher, sec. 2: Qedushah – part 5
And so, it appears to my limited thought that this mitzvah includes the entire foundation and root of the purpose of our lives. All of our work and effort should constantly be sanctified to doing good for the community. We should not use any act, movement, or get benefit or enjoyment that doesn’t have in it some element of helping another. And as understood, all holiness is being set apart for an honorable purpose… לכן נראה לפי עניות דעתי, שבמצוה זו כלול כל יסוד ושורש מגמת תכלית חיינו, שיהיו כל עבודתנו ועמלנו תמיד מוקדשים לטובת הכלל, שלא נשתמש בשום מעשה ותנועה, הנאה ותענוג שלא יהיה בזה איזה ענין לטובת זולתנו, וכמובן בכל הקדשות שהוא התיחדות למטרה נכבדה,
So, we well established that qedushah isn’t inherent in the concept of separation, but in being separated for an honorable goal. Whether that’s when the groom declares that his bride is “hereby mequdeshes to me” or when the kohein‘s tzitz adjures all those around him to be “qadosh Lashem“. Much rides in the preposition, “le-” (to) and what the separation is for.
לטובת זולתנו — for the good of others!
Continuing with the haqdamah:
… which is that a person straightens his path and strives constantly to make his lifestyle dedicated to the community. Then, anything he does even for himself, for the health of his body and soul he also associates to the mitzvah of being holy, for through this he can also do good for the masses. Through the good he does for himself he can do good for the many who rely on him. But if he derives benefit from some kind of permissible thing that isn’t needed for the health of his body and soul, that benefit is in opposition to holiness. For in this he is benefiting himself (for that moment as it seems to him), but to no one else does it have any value. והנה כשהאדם מישר הליכותיו ושואף שתמיד יהיו דרכי חייו מוקדשים להכלל, אז כל מה שעושה גם לעצמו להבראת גופו ונפשו הוא מתיחס גם כן אל מצות קדושה, שעל ידי זה יטיב גם לרבים, שבטובתו לעצמו הוא מטיב עם הרבים הצריכים לו, אבל אם הוא נהנה הנאה מן סוג המותריות, שאינן דרושות להבראת גופו ונפשו, הנאה זו היא נגד הקדושה, שבזה הוא מטיב לעצמו לרגע לפי דמיונו, ולזולתו אין שום תועלת.
Rather than qedushah being separation from rest, relaxation or luxury, Rav Shimon shows a way to sanctify these personal pleasures. If someone’s life is committed to doing good for others, and these joys are taken for the sake of being able to continue giving, without exhaustion (physical or mental), burnout, losing one’s patience with the recipient, etc… then they too are qadosh.
(Have people noticed the pattern that this material under the line are my “riffs” on Rav Shimon’s themes?)
It says in Shema (Devarim 6:5)
וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל מְאֹדֶךָ.
You shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources.
To which the Sifri comments (famously quoted by Rashi):
בשני יצריך. ד”א: “בכל לבבך” — שלא יהיה לבך חלוק על המקום
With both your inclinations [yeitzer hara and yeitzer hatov].
Another idea: “With all your heart” — that your heart should not be divided about the Omnipresent.
In general, the two-veis “levavekha” [your heart] emphasizes the heart’s conflicted, dialectic and ambivalent nature. The synonym “libekha“, with one veis, is used when we aren’t speaking of internal conflict. Thus, the Sifri’s interpretations are compelled by the wording, “all of your levav“.
Ideally, all of a person’s actions are “להיטיב עם זולתנו, ליחיד ולרבים בהוה ובעתיד בדמות הבורא כביכול — to do good to others, to individuals and to the masses, now and in the future, in imitation of the Creator (as it were)”, as Rav Shimon wrote earlier.
Satisfying one’s desires, even when within the black-letter aspect of halakhah, still violates the law. It is being “despicable with the permission of the Torah”, as the Ramban puts it, and so we are called by the Sifra to “sanctify yourself with what is permitted to you.”
How does one serve Hashem even with one’s yeitzer hara? When one satistfies one’s desires solely to be more capable of doing good for others in the future. That is living with an undivided heart, in imitation of the Unity of the Creator.