By Rabbi Aron Tendler
Uniqueness - What Makes Us Different?
The end of Parshas Shimini declared the uniqueness of the Jew. "Be holy
because I am holy." Just as G-d is singular and unique, so too should the
Jews be singular and unique. Just as G-d is the only G-d, so too the Jews
are the only chosen people. Just as G-d provides for the entire universe, so
too must the Jews care for all of humanity.
There are three basic Mitzvos that make the Jew unique. There are three
commandments that set the Jew apart from all the other nations. There are
three areas of life that sanctify the Jew and make them holy: Shabbos - the
Sabbath, Kashrus - the dietary laws, and Tahars Hamishpacha - the laws of
family purity. Shabbos was commanded at Marah and Matan Torah (Sinai).
Kashrus was commanded to the Jews in last week's Parsha. The laws of family
purity are introduced in this week's Parsha.
The Mishnah in Megilah states that additional Aliyos are permitted during the
reading of the Torah on Yom Tov, Yom Kippur, and Shabbos. However, the
commentaries argue as to the meaning of the Mishnah. The "Ran" says that
additional Aliyos are allowed on all three, Shabbos, Yom Kippur, and Yom Tov.
Others state that additional Aliyos are only permitted on Sabbos but not on
Yom Kippur or Yom Tov.
On Monday, Thursday, Shabbos Mincha, Rosh Chodesh, and Chol Hamoed we do not
have additional Aliyos because they are work-days, (Shabbos at Mincha is the
obvious exception) and the Rabbis did not want to impose extra time on the
Minyan who are rushing to get to work. However, Yom Kippur and Yom Tov are
not workdays. Why wouldn't there be additional Aliyos on those days?
The commentaries explain that the reason for Shabbos's exclusivity relative
to Yom Kippur and Yom Tov is to under-score that Shabbos is holier than Yom
Tov, and even Yom Kippur! Therefore we add Aliyos on Shabbos and not on the
I believe that, if asked, most people would say that Yom Kippur is holier
than Shabbos. Why do the commentaries say that Shabbos is holier than Yom
Holiness - Kedusha, is a designation of separation and uniqueness; it does
not mean seriousness and intensity. I remember listening to a pre-High
Holiday radio program where a Reform Rabbi explained that he would prefer
that the one-time-a-year "Davener", the Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur Jew, would
come to services on a Shabbos, rather than the High Holidays. The Yomim
Noraim are serious, intense, imposing, lengthy, and occasionally boring.
Lengthy sermons, fasting, appeals for funds, and tedious prayers do not make
for an inviting setting. It is understandable why the one-timers do not come
back, except one time a year. If the one-timers would experience a Shabbos
service with singing, socializing, eating, and joy, they might come back for
The reason why Shabbos is holier than Yom Kippur is because Shabbos
identifies the Jew as chosen far more than Yom Kippur. It is Shabbos that
separates the observant from the non-observant. It is Shabbos that separates
the Jew from the non-Jew. Many religions have a designated time during the
year to reflect, introspect, and atone. Only Judaism has Shabbos. Only
Shabbos is called G-d's "present" to the Jewish people. Therefore, Shabbos
is holier than Yom Kippur.
Kashrus also separates the Jew from the rest of the world and makes them
holy. As stated in last week's Parsha, "Be holy because I am holy." The
eating habits of the Jew overtly designate us as different. Special meals on
planes, matzo and hard-boiled eggs in Disney Land, green salads and Styrofoam
cups of coffee at business lunches, and chickens that still need to plucked.
It is Kashrus that designates the fully observant from the less so. Do you
"eat out?" "Pasta and tuna fish, never meat," vs. Who's Hashgacha
(supervision) do you have? Oh - we don't use that one." Therefore, Kashrus
is a major component of our sanctity-Kedusha.
In this week's Parsha, the Torah completes the threesome of Kedusha. Taharas
Hamishpacha - family purity separates our family life from all others.
Yahadus - Judaism is the only life style that frames family life and intimacy
in sanctity and responsibility. It is unique among all the religions of the
world. Love is cherished, intimacy is revered, and family is a partnership
The threesome of Kedusha, Shabbos, Kashrus, and Taharas Hamishpacha are the
basic criteria for being truly observant. Shabbos gives purpose and meaning
to time. Kashrus lends meaning and purpose to personal survival and
existence. Family Purity cloaks family and society in respect and purpose.
Copyright © 2000 by Rabbi Aron Tendler
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation,
Valley Village, CA.