How does someone attain true greatness? The Zohar Hakadosh says that someone who guards his brit can be called a tzaddik. That’s the one and only criteria. The Jewish people’s covenant with God is centered on sexual purity. The few people left in the world who still guard their brit live on a different plane than the ones who don’t. It’s understood how easy, available and addicting it is to blemish our brit these days, so maybe our generation shouldn’t be so accountable for this deterioration of kedusha? But the damage of our actions is simply a reality we have to live with, whether we can stop it or not. The purity of someone who fights off all the lure and remains steadfast in the face of all those temptations allows him access to levels of closeness to His creator that are unavailable to those who let their guard down.
What’s the big deal? Why is it so essential? Why is it so important to Hashem that we avoid sexual impurity? Put simply, the one act that makes us most similar to Hashem is procreation. (The Talmud even says that we are partners with Him in reproduction). So the tools that make us most similar to Hashem are our sexual tools. If we mess with them, we’re turning away from Him. We’re saying we don’t want to be like You. We like these tools you gave us, but we don’t like the use You intended for these tools. In essence, we don’t like You. (Sounds pretty harsh, I know, and we’re all familiar with the difficulty in this area and the many levels of success and failure, but the result of the blemish is a reality we can’t deny). This alienation of Hashem is a result of haughtiness, the desire to exist on ones own, whether Hashem wants it or not. Guarding the brit, on the other hand is an act of humility.
This humility says Rebbe Nachman (Torah 11) can be expressed in two forms, corresponding to the lower and upper unifications. The lower unification, בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד, is the humility of seeing ones actions to be a revelation of Hashem’s glory. This is still a great level of humility, but the person himself does exist in his own mind. The upper unification, שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל ה’ אֱלֹהֵינוּ ה’ אֶחָד, is complete humility. It’s declaring there is none other than Hashem. These are the two levels of guarding ones brit. The lower unification level is likened to someone whose relations are during the week. He guards his brit as the Torah requires and thereby reveals the glory of Hashem in his actions, especially in the crucial procreative action of intimacy. But then, as the Talmud teaches, the Torah scholar only has marital relations on Shabbos. This is likened to the upper unification, because even his intimacy is in complete holiness. Even in such a physical act, there is still no other force but Hashem, symbolized by Shabbos, when Hashem doesn’t enclothe Himself in any garments or veils.
These two levels of kedusha are both righteous. The lower unification level is symbolic of הלכה, (Halacha), the code of Jewish Law. The upper unification level is symbolic of קבלה, (Kabbala), Jewish mysticism. The letters of the word הלכה are found in the first letters of the verse הָרִיעוּ לַיהוָה כָּל הָאָרֶץ, (shout out to Hashem, the entire earth) because Jewish law is something that all Jews must relate to. Additionally, Jewish law is structured by everyday activities. So too, the lower unification is revealing Hashem, with all of our actions, in the world. The letters of the word קבלה are found in the first letters of the verse, הִשְׁתַּחֲווּ לַיהוָה בְּהַדְרַת קֹדֶשׁ, (Bow down to Hashem in the grandeur of holiness), suggesting that mysticism is for the select few who are bowing down to Hashem; a complete act of humility.
Joseph, the personification of one who guarded his brit, attained this complete humility. I always marvel at how Joseph was released from jail and placed before Pharaoh, who says, “They say you interpret dreams”. He answers, “It is not me, the Lord will bring Pharaoh’s tranquility”. And of course, when someone perpetuates the glory of God to such a degree, he is the garment of that glory, as it says, “Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him (Genesis 42:6)”.
Master of the world! Help us keep our eyes on You! Help us mimic you and procreate. Help us focus on revealing Your amazingness throughout the land by learning Halacha. Let all of our actions, whether mundane or religious, be filled with the scent of your Holiness! Let us rise above all the nations in purity and grace. You know and we know that all defilement and filth has no place with us. We are pure as angels! We only want purity. You placed us in a sewage hole and we try our best to close our noses and eyes. Help us connect to the real tzaddikim who bow down to You in holiness. Let them inspire us with fear of heaven to come back to Your house, a safe house, of quiet and serenity, where we can finally hear our own thoughts and realign our will with Yours. Let us bring the song of shabbos into the week and talk of Your uniquess all day long. We can do it. We really can, but we need Your help!