From HaGaon Rav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a, The Head of Halacha Yomit
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)
It states in the Parashah concerning the cohanim, “They must be holy to their G-d, and not profane their G-d’s Name” (Vayikra 21:6). The Torah warns us, that the cohanim practice a greater level of sanctity than the rest of the people for they are the people of Hashem, and the people of Hashem must be holier than the rest of the people.
Why does it state however, “…declare the following to Aaron’s descendants and you shall say to them” (ibid 21:1), it would have sufficed with, “…declare the following to Aaron’s descendants”. The explanation is as Rashi has explained to ensure that the adults warn the younger ones. That the older generation caution the younger ones not to become impure via the dead (for a cohen may not come within 6 feet of a cadaver).
Rashi’s comments “to ensure that the adults warn the younger ones”, may also be understood to mean that the adults must conduct themselves with additional holiness and purity, so that the younger people will learn from their example.
However, if we consider the pessukim there appears a substantial difficulty, for it states, “You must be holy” (ibid. 19:2), which is a higher level than the rest of the people. But afterwards it states, “and not profane their G-d’s Name”, profaning is a lower level than holiness, for a person who isn’t holy isn’t necessarily profane. If so, exactly what is the Torah commanding when it says to be holy and then adding not to profane their G-d’s Name.
The Torah is teaching us that in a person’s spiritual growth in serving Hashem there is no room for being lukewarm and compromising Torah values. There is no middle way that a person may travers, for this isn’t serving Hashem in anyway whatsoever.
Through a person’s actions he sanctifies Hashem’s Name or chas veshalom he desecrates Hashem’s Name. Therefore the Torah states “you must be holy” (ibid. 19:2), for if you won’t be holy then you are desecrating Hashem’s Name.
In the Torah’s way there is no room for compromising Torah values. Reform Judaism has no place in the fulfilment of mitzvot, to compromise any part of them is not an option. Go and see that all those who attempted to argue that some mitzvot are only for the pious, or who attempted to remove altogether some of the mitzvot, in the end, they left Yiddishkeit altogether. About them it states, “…so that they not desecrate My holy Name” (ibid. 22:2).
Am Yisrael recite everyday “Kriyat Shema” and say, “If you are careful to pay heed to my mitzvot…to love Hashem your G-d with all your heart and soul” (Devarim 11:13). Immediately we continue, “Be careful that your heart not be tempted to go astray after gods of others,” (ibid. 16). In this passuk is highlighted the very sharp pass, between holiness, “with all your heart and soul”, and the other side, “Be careful that your heart not be tempted to go astray”. This is because there are no middle paths in serving Hashem, for should a person listen the yetzer hara in just a small matter, at the end he will stumble in more serious sins.
It is understood that our intention is that even though there is no righteous person in the land who will do good and never sin [see Kohelet 7:20], nevertheless, also if a person G-d for bid stumbles, he may still elevate himself again to serve Hashem. However, if he stumbles in matters relating to ideology that implant in his heart heresy, even if he doesn’t actively deny, but rather interprets the Torah incorrectly and he attempts to lighten the yoke of mitzvot with improper arguments, for example, he cheapens those who are meticulous in mitzvah observance and similar things, or a person who is so immersed in sin that he doesn’t wish to make teshuva, then he is spiritually doomed.
This is the meaning in the words of our chachamim who said that Hashem didn’t exile his people Am Yisrael and destroy the Beit HaMikdash even for sexual immorality, idol worship and murder, but what did he punish am Yisrael for, “because they forsook my Torah” (Yirmiyahu 9:12), the sin of not studying Torah.
This may be explained that when a person is so steeped in a low level that he transgresses such frightening sins, the main indictment against him isn’t the serious sins themselves, for what may be expected from such a lowly person, but rather the main claim in the severity of the judgement is that he caused himself to deteriorate in serving Hashem, down a slippery slope. This is due to him not studying Torah. For if he had continued to assign daily ringfenced time for Torah study, he certainly would not have fallen into the nadir.
Therefore we are obligated with renewed energy to be meticulous to protect ourselves in correctly serving Hashem. For should we experience a small dip, we have cannot fathom how far this may lead chas veshalom. Rather, a person who is constantly in awe of Hashem and makes every effort to protect his spiritual standing and constantly adds more and more to serving his Creator, is assured that that he will succeed in serving Hashem, and it will good for him now and moving forwards.