by Reb Gutman Locks
"You shall be holy, for I am holy…."[i] Why does Hashem being holy require us to be holy? And what is holiness?
Hashem wants us to appreciate His holiness. In order to appreciate G-d's holiness, we ourselves have to attain at least some degree of holiness.
But how can we even dream of attaining such an exalted state? After all, we are mere people, flesh and blood (and a lot of animal mixed in, too). Is this a realistic goal? If Hashem commanded us to attain it, it must be attainable.
Then, what is holiness? The fact is, only Hashem is holy, and everything that we call holy, be it a sefer Torah, a unique sage, a good deed, all these merely point to Hashem's holiness.
Hashem is always present. He is everywhere, but He is hiding. He hides Himself in order to give us freewill. If we could see the actual reality of His Presence…, if we were able to see that He is actually right here watching all the time, no one would ever sin. Would a pickpocket reach into someone's pocket if he saw the judge standing right there watching?
Hashem hides this reality so we will be able to choose good or bad. Then, He repays us in kind. The rewards are commensurate with the effort, and so are the embarrassing repercussions according to their sins.
Hashem has given us holy deeds so we will become holy. Then, as we do more and more holy deeds we begin to see G-d's holy Presence. Be aware, holy deeds only reveal G-d's presence if we pay attention to what those holy deeds are doing. Paying attention is an essential part of the mitzvah.
In order for there to be spiritual awareness, we have to recognize at least some of the spiritual aspects of the deed. What spiritual changes are taking place when we do it?
When a woman lights her Shabbos candles she should see that she is doing more than lighting physical candles. She is actually bringing holy time into her home. When she lights Shabbos candles more than mere physical light fills the home. If she would light those candles on any other day, only physical light would spread out from them. But since she is lighting them for a holy purpose, there is an even greater light, the spiritual light of the holy Shabbos. The physical light merely announces the spiritual light. Because of her deed, her day has become holy. Now we see why when she lights her candles it is a "time of favor," and why Hashem listens intently to her prayers at that time.
When we give charity, more than a mere coin changes hands; kindness has become manifest, poverty is somewhat relieved. Each mitzvah brings both physical and spiritual changes to the world.
In order to appreciate the spiritual changes one has to be aware of what they are. Try to see how your holy acts spread out into the world, and then little by little, you will begin to see the holiness of the One Who has commanded them.
[i] Leviticus 19:1