The Zohar teaches much about the standard of behavior required to fulfill the commandment to be "holy" as it appears in this week's Torah reading. In the passage below, we see the distinction made between modest behavior and that conceited manner that so easily pervades the Western lifestyle.

"It is the honor of Elokim to conceal a thing." (Prov. 25:2)

Those who don't engage themselves in that honor [by keeping the Torah and mitzvot that G‑d gave us] have that thing [the Shechinah] hidden from them.

The Divine Presence cannot dwell where there is a foothold for the forces of ego and self-aggrandizement characterized by immodest behavior. These forces are called "chitzonim", or "external forces", because they are far from the inner core of holiness in a person and in the universe. The Zohar explains that G‑d constricted His essence in order to create a diverse world. However, the more the Infinite Light is contracted, the more the forces of darkness can flourish. By focusing on themselves and their flashy physical appearance, people may become a vehicle for these dark forces and lose touch with the Divine. It becomes hidden from them, forced away by their own egotist initiative.

About these people, it is written "Fools bring about shame." (Proverbs 3:35) These are the uneducated people who are called "boors" because they don't make an effort to engage themselves in the honor of the Torah.

….For how can a person serve his master if he hasn't learnt his master's commandments?

How can they say in prayer, "Our Father Who is in Heaven, hear our voice, save us and have mercy on us and receive our prayer"? Certainly the Holy One blessed be He will say to them, "If I am your Father, where is the honor you must give Me? Where is your striving to understand the Torah and its instructions in order to fulfill My commandments?" For how can a person serve his master if he hasn't learnt his master's commandments?

The exception is [an unlearned person] who heard [the legal requirements demanded of every Jew] from the wise and kept the commandments. This sort of person has accepted on himself the yoke of [the term] "We will do, and we will hear".

At Mount Sinai the people of Israel said this famous phrase before receiving the Torah, expressing a willingness to fulfill its commandments even before hearing what was in it. A person who is uneducated in Torah but makes an effort to find out from the learned what is the proper conduct in any situation, is considered worthy even though he cannot learn for himself.

There is nonetheless a big difference between one who doesn't receive his instructions directly from his Master [by learning the laws himself] and one who receives instruction from his messengers [the Sages and rabbis]. What is the big difference between them? It is written that Moses received the Torah on Mount Sinai and afterwards transmitted it to Joshua. I [the soul of Moses, who is narrating this section of the Zohar] received the Torah [directly from G‑d]. Afterwards I passed it on to the Sages.

One who receives from another is like the moon and planets that only receive their light from the sun…

From here we see that one who teaches himself Torah in order to fulfill it is considered as though he himself received the Torah directly from G‑d in the same manner as Moses!

So it is that one who receives [instruction] from another [and doesn't learn for himself] is like the moon and planets that only receive their light from the sun and on receiving that light become full of light themselves [without having any of their own to add]. And one who only receives light runs the risk that his source of light can be removed [i.e. the teacher he relies on may die]. This is as we see with the sun and moon, when their light disappears at night.

And you might say that this light of the moon comes from the sun, even though it has been gathered in, since it shines on the moon and planets [like the teachings of a sage after his passing]. But we see this differently. It is like an eclipse of the sun and the moon. Then their light disappears, and they remain like a body without a soul. This shows that there is a master above them who is darkening their light. The essence of the light is that place from which it issues from and doesn't stop shining [G‑d], and there is no other power above Him that can stop His light.

Zohar, parashat Kedoshim p.82b; translation and commentary by Simcha-Shmuel Treister

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