(Related podcast: “Becoming Holy” — The Bible Prescription (Podcast))
The desire to become holy, as a means to ascend to higher spiritual dimensions, is as ancient as human civilization.
But what does it mean to become holy? How do you become holy?
Several paths to holiness have been offered in the past. These include.
Path 1. Seclusion in an isolated place, disconnected from human beings.
Path 2. Refrain from talk (keeping silent) for an extended period of time.
Path 3. Pursuing the path of a Nazarite (including abstinence from the other sex and from alcohol).
Path 4. Adoption of certain dietary menus to cleanse the body, hopefully leading to holiness.
What is the Bible prescription to becoming holy?
It indeed departs appreciably from all the paths just described.
However, it is exact. And it is specific.
The Bible delivers a prescription to becoming holy in the form of ‘Do’s and ‘Do-not do’s. These are scattered throughout the Bible (particularly, in Torah and the prophets). Yet, it is described in detail, in a concentrated fashion, in a certain segment of the Jewish Torah, generally referred to, in Jewish tradition, as Parashat Kedoshim (Segment “The holy ones”).
The prescription starts with a Divine assertion, repeated, nearly verbatim, close to the end of the Parashah.
Here is the opening verse (Leviticus 19:1):
“And Jehovah spoke to Moses saying, speak to all the congregation of the Children of Israel and say to them: “Holy shall you be because holy am I, Jehovah your God”.
In a verse, prior to the end of the Parashah, the same assertion is repeated (Leviticus 20:26):
“And you shall be holy to me for holy am I, Jehovah…”.
Throughout the Parashah, the signature of the Divine is repeated, time and again, at the end of a set of ‘Do’s and ‘Do-not do’s, as if to remind the listener (or reader), of their Divine source:
“I am Jehovah”.
(For example, Leviticus 19:16).
In this post (and the accompanying podcast), we concentrate on a certain small segment of ‘Do’s and ‘Do-not do’s. They are not related in particular to the Israelites (as are, for example, dietary Kashrut commandments). These ‘Do’s and ‘Do-not do’s are of a universal value, applicable to all aspiring for holiness in their lives.
We refer to verses 16 to 18 of Leviticus 19. They represent some of the ‘Do’s and ‘Do-not do’s, prescribed by Torah as a path to holiness in Chapters 19 and 20. We start with the ‘Do-not do’s.
Do-not do 1 (Verse 16):
“Do not walk around offering your merchandise of slander”.
(Expressed in four words, in the original biblical Hebrew).
In short, do not engage in slander.
We note that slander, in biblical terms, means telling un-pleasant truths about a fellow human being. This is a profound diversion from modern judiciary systems, where slander exclusively means telling un-pleasant lies, about a specific individual or about a group of people. According to Torah, these do not constitute slander. These are simply lies, or falsehoods. In Torah terms, slander exclusively relates to telling truths, unpleasant or embarrassing as they may be.
Do-not do 2 (Verse 16):
“Do not stand still, while your fellow human-being is in a potentially threatening blood-shedding situation. I am Jehovah”.
(First sentence expressed in five words, in the original biblical Hebrew).
Do-not do 3 (Verse 17):
“Do not hate your fellow human-being in your heart”.
Do-not do 4 (Verse 18):
“Do not do wrong in return for wrong-doing committed unto you”.
In short, do not take revenge.
Do-not do 5 (Verse 18):
“Do not reserve resentment”.
We note, that resentment may lead to revenge. This is comparable to coveting (subject of the Tenth Commandment), which may lead to stealing. The Torah commands, in both cases — Eliminate the root-cause: Resentment that may lead to revenge; Coveting that may lead to stealing.
We proceed to the “To do” list in the same small segment (Leviticus 19:16-18).
Do 1 (Verse 17):
“Reproach your fellow human-being lest you carry his sin, on your account”.
In the original Hebrew text, a different interpretation is also possible.
“Reproach your fellow human-being lest he carries a sin, due to you”.
In other words, because you have refrained from reproach, when one was needed, your fellow human-being may carry a sin, namely, become a sinner.
Do 2 (Verse 18):
“Love thy neighbor as yourself. I am Jehovah”.
Five ‘Do-not do’s and two ‘Do’s in a very small segment of Divine prescription to becoming holy. These are a small representative sample.
To become truly holy, the Divine prescription, as articulated in Torah and in the prophets, need to be learned in depth, and then re-learned, and re-learned again. Until this prescription is practiced on a regular basis.
Once this happens, the prescription is engraved as a way of life, the ‘Do’s and ‘Do-not do’s are absorbed to become like second nature.
In the language of Torah, a ‘Do-not do’, which has formerly been observed as Divine command that needs to be fulfilled, is now replaced with “Not being able to do” (for example, Deuteronomy 21:16).
An aspiring individual, wishing to be holy, then no longer merely fulfills a Divine commandment: “Be holy, for I, Jehovah, am holy”.
Rather, he, or she, becomes God-like.
To become like God is an ancient desire. It had formerly been expressed, in Torah, in a perverted way, by Adam and Eve, who desired to be like Elohim (Genesis 3:5). To be Elohim-like means to resemble the Creator, namely, dominate nature.
This time, same desire, to be like God, is expressed differently, materializing the right way. It is expressed as a desire to become Jehovah-like via becoming truly holy.
Why becoming truly holy, Torah fashion, implies becoming Jehovah-like?
“I, Jehovah, am holy”.