To be AND not to be – That is the Answer

The definition of holiness, sanctity, in Loshon Hakodesh, in Hebrew, is to be “set apart”, be nivdal.

When you sanctify something, you take it away from all other things and give it special  importance. It becomes  absolute, and all else – only relative.

As Rashi says in our Parasha:

בכל מקום שאתה מוצא פרישות גדר ערוה שם אתה מוצא קדושה

Wherever you find withdrawal from earthly matters you shall find sanctity

So withdrawal is essential for holiness.

But there is more to this.

The Gemara in Shabbat says

קו”ף קדוש

When the Gemara speaks of the meaning of each letter in the Hebrew alphabet, it says that the letter Kof, ק, stands for Kadosh, which is Holy. Of course it means that Kof is the first letter of קדוש, but not only that.


Kof in Hebrew means really – an ape, or monkey. And monkeys have a habit of imitating Man.

Being holy is also a kind of imitation.

Because just as an ape imitates Man, Man, when he sanctifies himself, is really imitating G-d, as G-d is holy Himself, and the source if all sanctity.

קדושים תהיו כי קדוש אני ה’ אלהיכם

Be holy, because I, Hashem your G-d, am holy


If we are really supposed to imitate Hashem, we must imitate his attitude to the world, too.

And G-d is everywhere, and nowhere (to be seen).

He is present, or omnipresent, but also beyond reach.

He is involved in everything but not entangled with the world, being far elevated from it.

So must we.

When Ramhal in his Mesilat Yesharim speaks of the final stage, achieving Kedusha, sanctity, he doesn’t say a person should become a hermit. He says that after one had gone through the whole “course” or route ordained by the book, all one’s normal actions, like eating and drinking, become like sacrifices upon an altar.

They become holy.

So we too, must be involved in the world, but not entangled in it. Be active, be fully alive and engaged, and use what the world has to offer us, but only in the service of G-d. We must not let ourselves be engulfed in the pleasures of world, unless we need it to serve Him.

We must be there, present, like G-d’s omnipresence in the world, and at the same time –  not be there, as he is nivdal, set apart from everything.

To be and not to be IS the answer…

Hamlet courtesy

Chimp courtesy


4 thoughts on “To be AND not to be – That is the Answer

  1. So well explained, totally helped me understand what holiness, and being set apart is, while still involved with serving Gd. You explained something so hard, sound so clearly right. Beautiful, thankyou 😊💐

    Liked by 1 person

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