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The demands that the Torah imposes upon us with the large array of commandments that appear in this week's Torah reading are major and taxing. Nevertheless we have a rule that the Torah never demands the impossible from human beings or of human behavior. As such, I feel that the true challenge implicit in the commandment to be a holy and dedicated person – the idea that is present in the opening words of this week's Torah reading – is the fact that the path that leads us to this holy and dedicated state of being are mundane in their nature.

We would understand and perhaps even appreciate if the commandments were of an extraordinary measure of self-denial, asceticism or enforced isolation from human society. That is the picture that many of us have of a holy person, someone alone atop a mountain involved in a permanent state of meditation and purification.
We are not accustomed to think of holy people as being the people that we come in contact with on a daily basis in our life experience. We assigned the role of holiness and dedication to God to great Torah scholars and other spiritual leaders. We do not think of the storekeeper, the bus driver or any of our service personnel as being obligated to be especially holy.
But even a cursory review of this week's Torah reading will show us that the nature of most of the commandments described concern themselves with everyday life and with regular and ordinary events. Holiness is viewed as not being an exalted state of being out of the reach of the average Jew but rather as a natural and necessary by-product of living a life of Torah observance.
There is a legend concerning the great Maggid of Dubno, Rabbi Yaakov Kranz and his relationship to Rabbi Elijah, the Gaon of Vilna. Rabbi Elijah invited the famed Maggid to visit him and to point out to him how he could improve himself in the service of his Creator. Rabbi Elijah, who spent nearly every moment of his waking hours in the study of Torah, seemed to have little room for improvement in his spiritual life.
However, the Maggid said to his host as follows: “You sit here in your study, surrounded by your books, immersed in Torah knowledge and therefore you are the great Gaon of Vilna. But, why don't you go out and stand with the fishmonger in the marketplace of Vilna, in the real world of human interaction, of buying and selling, of temptation and honesty, and let us then see if you would truly be the Gaon of Vilna.”
The legend then tells us that the great Rabbi Elijah wept when he heard this challenge of the Maggid.  Holiness was to be found not only in the study room but it had to exist in the fish market as well. We are all bidden to be holy and to sanctify all aspects of our behavior and life and be worthy, at all times, of serving God in the proper manner.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Berel Wein

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