Dealing with Adversity – Thoughts on Parashas Kedoshim

Parashas Kedoshim begins: “Kedoshim Tihiyu — You shall be holy, for I, Hashem your G‑d, am

holy.” Rashi explains that kedushah, usually translated as “holiness,” essentially means “separateness”

or dedicated for a specific purpose. Kiddushin at a wedding means the kallah dedicates

herself to the chassan exclusively.

Indeed, we mention the idea of Hashem’s separateness in the third brachah of the Shemoneh

Esrei kedushas Hashem — as well as in Kedushah recited during chazaras hashatz:

Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh — Holy, Holy, Holy is Hashem, Master of Legions … (Yeshayahu 6:3).

The phrase in the brachah “And the holy ones (“kedoshim”) praise you every day,” the commentators

tell us, refers both to the malachim as well as Klal Yisrael, as alluded to in the opening words

of the parashah, as quoted above.

Harav Shimon Schwab, zt”l, in his commentary to sefer Yeshayahu, echoes the words of Rashi and notes that the essential meaning of kedushah as “removal” or “separation” implies avoiding prohibited relationships and making

moral decisions based on the Torah principles. It is a charge to discipline oneself and transcend

one’s baser nature.

The tests of the yetzer hara can seem insurmountable at times, especially when the street

and modern technology and the varied modes of communication offer unprecedented obstacles

that impede our dedication to fulfilling retzon Hashem. They provide opportunities that meanwe need to use caution in what we look at. Ithas been related in the name of Harav YisroelGustman, zt”l, that a Yid in the European shtetl

did not see in decades what we see in on our streets in one day. Therefore, he said, when we pass such tests, which are much greater than theirs, we receive a tremendous reward. Yet, we need to remember that the aim of the yetzer hara

is to bring us to actualize our potential and grow as people. This requires wisdom and effort.

Looking at inappropriate sights leads to unrefined thoughts. It befuddles our thinking, thus affecting our ability to focus and causes impatience, hindering our chances of success at whatever we are doing. Naturally, the converse is also true. It has been said in the name of the Kalover Rebbe, shlita, citing Kabbalistic sources, that such conduct leads to parnassah problems.

Harav Nosson Wachtfogel, zt”l, related that when he was chosen by Harav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, to become Mashgiach of Beth Medrash Govoha, it surprised him and others who felt there were more suitable candidates for the position.

He explained that he attributed it to his care with shemiras einayim. He recalled that his Rebbetzin’s

talmidos would come to his home every Shabbos and he had the task of speaking for them. Still and all, he attested, he did not know what they looked like. His success stemmed from this practice, he attested.

There are strategies that can help. Firstly, consider the advantages and disadvantages of giving in to the lures of the yetzer hara. Here are a few.

At times a person is depressed and seeks something enjoyable to get him out of it. The yetzer hara’s types of suggestions, by their nature, provide only momentary pleasure and afterwards one feels worse than he did before. Yet, their addictive nature makes it very difficult to discontinue them, despite the realization of their

counterproductive effects.

Thirdly, human beings have a need to be consistent. Fulfilling mitzvos on one hand and acting in ways inconsistent with halachah or Torah values results in frustration and distress.

We can distract ourselves from bothersome thoughts by replacing them with elevating thoughts. Maseches Kiddushin 30 tells us that Hashem says: “Borasi yetzer hora, borasi Torah tavlin — I have created the yetzer hara, but I have also created the Torah as an antidote.” Torah learning is the remedy against the evil inclination

but we must take the first step of opening a sefer and accessing its remedial powers.

The Ramban famously understands kedushah in the sense of overcoming indulgence and exercising

moderation even when engaging in activities the Torah sanctions. When dining, eating in moderation and making healthier choices is one example of this. The well-known Taanis HaRaavad — the Raavaad’s fast — means that one should leave over a little food from one’s meal, which is considered more effective than actual fasting and

is mentioned in the Mishnah Berurah.

Later, in Parashas Va’eschanan the Torah charges us: “For you are an am kadosh to Hashem your G-d Who has chosen you to be a treasured people to Himself, above all peoples of the earth” (Devarim. 7:6). Here too, the Torah reminds us, the Jewish people are separate and set aside from the other nations to be Hashem’s chosen people.

Preserving our kedushah as individuals, families and communities is perhaps the most formidable

challenge of our times. Naturally, much more can be said on this topic. It is reassuring to know that great benefits and blessings are to be had from passing the tests that are sent our way in this area.

Rabbi Yosef Gesser is a longtime writer for Hamodia Newspaper as well as an inspirational speaker on various

topics, including dealing with adversity. He can be reached at

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