This week’s parsha begins with a commandment from HaShem to be Kadosh. The Ramban on this pasuk says that throughout the Torah, there are many negative commandments which prohibit us from doing certain things. However, this commandment isn’t necessarily saying not to do something, rather it’s telling us how to use that which is muttar to us.
What’s the pshat in this? The general mindset when one sees such a Ramban would to be somewhat skeptical. As a Rebbe of mine once said, this is the type of Ramban people want to just skip over. There are so many things we can’t do, now there are also restrictions on that which we can do!? What’s the Ramban trying to teach us?
Chazal tell us that Ya’akov Avinu was the chosen one of the Avos. A medrash even recounts that his face, is d’mus, is engraved on the kisei hakavod. Why was Ya’akov Avinu considerably more special than the other two Avos? Why was it his face engraved on the kisei hakavod and not Avraham or Yitzchak?
Meforshim tell us that there was an inherent difference between the Avodah of Yaakov and the Avodah of the other two Avos. The other two Avos we find being immersed completely in ruchniyus. Avraham was fully involved with kiruv and gemilas chasadim, while Yitzchak was involved constantly involved in tefillah. Ya’akov Avinu, on the other hand, is the one we find involved in gashmius. He was the “ba’al-a-bus”, involved in working for Lavan, making money. He’s the one with the four wives and tons of children.
The Ba’alei Mussar say this distinction and point out that it’s a very high level to emulate Avraham and Yitzchak and immerse yourself completely with ruchniyus. However, there’s a higher level. To take the gashmiyus and elevate it. To make the material world kadosh. That was the level of Ya’akov Avinu. That was his essence.
I once saw a vort in Maseches Berachos which further brings out this point. As we know, Ya’akov Avinu was the one who was mesakein tefillas Arvis (Ma’ariv). The Gemara has a discussion whether or not ma’ariv is a reshus or a chovah (is it an obligation or is it something one can choose to do if he desires). According to the opinion that it’s a reshus, I once saw an explanation that this was a consequence of the essence of Ya’akov. Ya’akov’s mehus was to take the reshus and elevate it.
This is the yesod in the Ramban. It isn’t saying that Kedusha is to be abstinent. In fact, the Messilas Yesharim says that Abstinence is the level before Kedusha. A person reaches kedusha through being a poreish, but they definitely exist as two separate states. The reason is because Abstinence means refraining from things; Kedusha is taking that which your allowed to have and elevating it. This was the Darga of Ya’akov Avinu and its the one of the highest levels we can strive for.
In order to be like Ya’akov Avinu and to have our d’mus engraved on the kisei hakavod, we need to ingrain within ourselves this yesod of the Ramban. The only way to connect to HaShem is if we become like Him. Something which is Tahor can’t come into contact with something which is Tamei. So too, if we want to be davuk to HaShem, we need to become like Him, Kadosh. There are things in this world which are muttar to us. But if we want to truly establish ourselves with an essence of kedusha, it means not just refraining from that which is assur but elevating that which is muttar. With this yesod in mind, it’s possible to become like Ya’akov Avinu and truly connect to Hakadosh Baruch Hu.