Kahane on the Parsha
Rabbi Meir Kahane- Parshat Emor
TO GIVE OF ONESELF
"V'nikdashti b'toch b'nei Yisrael," thunders the Torah. "And I shall be sanctified in the midst of the Children of Israel" (Leviticus 22:32). Kiddush Hashem, the sanctification of G-d's Name! Is there any greater concept in all of Judaism? The hallowing of the Name!
And how does one achieve this mitzvah of sanctification of the Name? One observes the Sabbath by observing it; one observes the commandment of prayer by praying; one fulfills the commandment of giving charity by reaching into one's pocket and giving. But how does one reach the summit of the mitzvah of sanctification? The Torah commentator, Rashi, quietly and expressly explains - in four short and simple Hebrew words: "M'sor atzmecha v'kadesh sh'mi. Give of yourself and sanctify My Name."
As simple as that, as complex as that. As obvious as that, as concealed as that - and without it THERE IS NO JUDAISM and there is NO JEW and there is NO MEANING or CONTENT to Torah or existence.
Who gives of himself today? Who looks upon his life in the light of the ultimate Truth - as a thing that is loaned us by its Creator on the condition that we live it in a certain way? And if, when the time comes, that way calls for the risking of that life - who realizes that it is part of the bargain that man has made and is morally bound to observe?
The Ramban speaks of the possibility of a Jew living according to strict Jewish standards and following the very letter of the law, and yet remaining a "naval b'rshut haTorah," a villainous scoundrel within the boundaries of the Torah! The mind boggles at the thought! A Jew who scrupulously adheres to the letter of the law of each of the 613 commandments, who observes the Sabbath exactly as he must, who gives exactly the minimum amount of charity that he must, and who remains a villain and a scoundrel according to the Torah!
It is not so strange. We see them every day. The Jew who eats only glatt kosher food, but in disgusting and expensive abundance while the poor and needy suffer silently in their forgotten neighborhoods and tenements. This is a scoundrel within Torah limits. The Jew who signs a petition, attends a parade, and returns home to his parlor while the noose grows tighter and parades cease to have meaning. This is a Torah scoundrel. The Jew who DOES the exact MINIMUM that he must and talks of the need to climb mountains but REMAINS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SLOPE - this is the scoundrel and, indeed, he always remains at the bottom.
Who gives of himself today? Worse, who recognizes his own weakness in not giving of himself? At least, if the latter were true, there might be some hope. But we live in a time when the flabby moral villain not only refuses to ascend the mountain but condemns those who do.
Who looks upon life and understands its vanities and the need for a proper order of priorities? Who knows that if there are Jews who are oppressed, that one's own life and fortune are mortgaged to their freedom? Who understands that life is not as important as the manner of living it? Instead we look around and find people who pray to return to Zion and remain in the comfort of gilded Exile; who cry out against Russians and react in horror to any suggestion that the Soviet slope be conquered; who see Iraqi Jews murdered and who demand that "international action" be taken.
Life is ours to be lived and life is ours to be understood. It is not ours to do with as we wish; it is ours to do with as we MUST.
The Rabbis bitterly condemned the Jew who sits and eats hi meals in bland comfort while his fellow Jews suffer. They must surely have a special horror of that same Jew who - while he ate in the midst of Jewish tears - made a tremendous show of his religiosity on forgetting his brothers only over a plate of food fit even for the most scrupulous of Orthodox.
To the young who wish to reach the height of sanctity, know that it cannot be reached from the comfortable valley. When the cry of a Jew is heard, CLIMB THE MOUNTAIN. Only thus does one reach G-d and his fellow man. It is dangerous and one can die, but, in the end, that is the ONLY WAY that one lives.
The Jewish Press, 1973
Editor's note: Most of Rabbi Meir Kahane's anger in this dvar Torah is directed at American Jews who knew of the plight of Soviet Jewry but took little meaningful action in his eyes to alleviate it.
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