G‑d gave us 613 commandments. The rabbis added another 7 - a complete guide of conduct, what to do and what not to do. It would seem that a Jew who fulfills all of them has achieved the ultimate, yet we have an interesting directive in the second of this week's two portions. The verse says, "Sanctify yourselves and be sanctified" (Lev. 20:7). Some commentaries explain the intention of this verse as meaning that "one should sanctify oneself even with what is permitted": even that which the Torah allows should be sanctified by limiting ourselves in what we require and not overindulging.

When a Jew sees that he or she desires something in the world too much (even for things that are acceptable), they should hold back and make do with less. This is what is meant by "sanctify oneself": to be able to detach oneself from the physical. Chasidim have an expression - "What is forbidden is forbidden, what is permissible, you don't need it."

He searches for even more aspects of physicality to imbue with the light of holiness….

Why is this? Clearly, G‑d made exactly the amount of commandments that were required. Why should it be necessary to take it a step further, putting limitations on what is permitted? Within the answer to this question that the Lubavitcher Rebbe gives is the ultimate purpose of the Torah and its commandments.

What does Torah do? Torah purifies and improves both the character and the soul of the individual, bringing them closer to G‑d. When a Jew learns Torah and fulfills the commandments, he intensifies his spiritual strengths, moving higher up the spiritual ladder. When he accepts the Torah's premises yet simply fulfills only what the Torah says is required of him, essentially he is demonstrating a lack of choice (i.e. "Since it is unavoidable, I will negate my will to the will of G‑d"). On the other hand, when he "sanctifies himself" through limiting even what is permissible, this shows that he is not acting out of obligation; on the contrary, he identifies so much with Torah lifestyle that he searches for even more aspects of physicality to imbue with the light of holiness.

He is doing it because he wants to. This is like making an extra effort when you love someone. The suggestion is to start to reexamine our relationship with physicality, not a wholesale program of self-denial. This is not only the most effective means to cleansing and improving oneself, this is the foundation of how to connect to G‑d.

The entire world, even mundane things, will also clearly be experienced as something divine….

Chasidic philosophy reveals a secret: To bring the final redemption with Mashiach, it is not enough for the Jewish people to fulfill the commandments and to restrain ourselves from what is forbidden. To bring the redemption we have to show, through our actions, that we really want it. This can only happen when we minimize our desires for the physical. Then we show that our connection to G‑d is not limited to our spiritual side, but to every aspect of our life. No detail of the physical plane should be outside of our service to G‑d. This will reflect what reality will be like in the future redemption. In the time of the Mashiach, the entire world, even mundane things, will also clearly be experienced as something divine.

The way to prepare ourselves for the times of Mashiach is by first sanctifying ourselves with what is permitted. This will indicate that we are truly devoted to G‑d, and then, through our efforts now, we can bring the final, complete and true redemption, and open our eyes and see G‑dliness in every aspect of the world.

Shabbat Shalom! Shaul

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