21 Av 5781 / Friday, July 30, 2021 | Torah Reading: Eikev
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Covenant of Peace    

Covenant of Peace

The jealousy and competition between groups, when each claims that his particular group is the master of the truth, is far from true service of Hashem...


Hashem commands us, "Be holy, for I Am Holy" (Leviticus 19:2). This commandment contains the entire Torah, for Hashem's holy commandments are designed to bring us to holiness so that we may cling to Him.


When we recite a benediction before performing a mitzva, we say, "...for He has sanctified us with His commandments." Personal holiness, what we call in Hebrew shmirat Habrit or literally "guarding the holy covenant", is the mitzva that is the most conducive to fulfilling our obligation of, "Be holy, for I Am Holy". Rashi elaborates by saying that holiness is the utter avoidance of the vulgar and the promiscuous, while distancing oneself from sin.


The key to personal holiness is guarding the eyes. Understandably, guarding our eyes became an integral part of the Shema prayer, the foundation of Judaism. One who fails to guard his eyes cannot possibly feel holiness - he won't connect with Hashem or with the holiness of Torah and the mitzvoth. He won't feel the holiness of Shabbat. Without guarding one's eyes, one is rendered spiritually insensitive. As such, guarding one's eyes is not only the key to personal holiness but the key to fulfilling the Torah and its commandments.


With the above in mind, one is obligated to devote at least a half-hour daily of personal prayer dedicated to guarding his eyes and to personal holiness. Closed eyes are guarded eyes, and the opposite holds true as well - open eyes are unguarded eyes, and unguarded eyes lead to serious breaches in personal holiness.


A person who learns Torah without guarding his eyes provides fodder for the Sitra Achra, the "other" or dark side of spirituality and the opposite of holiness, as the Zohar explains. The Zohar calls such a student of Torah, "a Jewish demon." Rabbi Yaacov Abuchatzera of saintly and blessed memory writes that learning Torah and fulfilling its commandment are meaningless without personal holiness.


My esteemed and holy rabbi, teacher and spiritual guide, Rav Yehuda Zeev Leibowitz of saintly and blessed memory, was an individual who reached a lofty level of piety and spiritual sensitivity. Once, a impressive-looking Torah scholar who seemed to be a highly God-fearing individual came to visit Rav Yehuda Zeev. Rav Yehuda Zeev not only refused to speak to him, but would not even look at this man. After several long moments of silence, the man got up and left. As he was leaving, Rav Yehuda Zeev called out loud, "Woe is he who looks at women - one cannot look at him, for his misleading exterior does not reflect his corroded interior."


All the dissension among those who learn Torah stems from blemished personal holiness, for a person who is truly holy has no contention with anyone. A holy person does what he's supposed to do and is magnanimous toward everyone else.


The jealousy and competition between groups, when each claims that his rabbi or rebbe is the true leader, or that his particular group or community is the master of the truth, is far away from true service of Hashem. Such people aren't much better than those who root for a particular football or basketball team.


Hashem is One; serving the Holy One cannot include contention or competition. A person was born in a certain place or into a certain community simply because of the the dictates of Divine Providence. Hashem knows that a certain rabbi or certain social group would be conducive for that person's spiritual growth. But, Hashem wants us all to grow while loving every Jew, wishing the best for every Jew, and while developing our own upright character traits, for this is the job of every person.


How painful it is to see intramural dissension among various groups within Judaism. Such dissension leads to the worst sins, including slander, humiliating others and even physical violence, Heaven forbid. This is a terrible defamation of Hashem's Name; rather than bringing people to Torah, such zealotry distances people from Torah, for it's far away from truth and peace.


Such terrible sins that stem from a group's zealotry, thinking that they are better than others, are indications of blemished personal holiness. True personal holiness is a result of inner purification; a holy individual will never harbor malice toward any other Jew. He'll be calm and peace-loving, and certainly not belligerent. He'll be happy in seeing that others succeed, for he knows that every Jewish soul is rooted in the Divine, and he seeks the welfare of every such soul.


One cannot reach the level of loving every Jew without attaining the level of personal holiness that results from guarding one's eyes (see Likutei Moharan I: 54). Those who resent others, the opposite of magnanimity, are called in Hebrew, the ones with "evil eyes" - they are full of hate, contention and jealousy. Their bitterness is the direct result of blemished personal holiness. Now, and especially during the Three Weeks, is time to uproot such negative tendencies within ourselves by strengthening the “good eye”, guarding our eyes and seeing the good in others, fulfilling our covenant of peace both with Hashem and with our fellow Jew, amen!

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