The parsha, Kedoshim, starts with the mitzvah that every man and woman should be holy. How should one be holy? Kedusha, or holiness, means to be separated, or set apart. For a Jew to make himself holy, he must separate himself from anything that is not in accordance to the Torah and Jewish law. There are many different levels of holiness to attain in order to reach Hashem.
1. One must purify his thoughts. Impure thoughts may lead to impure actions. Hashem says, “ If you wish to be close to Me, seek to be similar to Me.” Hashem is at the highest level of kedusha- holiness/separateness. Hashem is completely separated from the physical world. Although we possess a physical body, and can never reach pure levels of Hashem’s kedusha, by striving to follow all the mitzvot that Hashem has commanded us, we can reach the highest levels of kedusha within our physical reach. Moreover, Hashem created us with a yatar hara- an inclination to sin. By overcoming that evil inclination, we attain spiritual levels that rank above the angels. Additionally, by abstaining from one’s evil inclination, one is rewarded with being ‘attached to the shechina- G-d’s presence,’ promising him eternal life.
2. When Hashem commands us to be holy, He wants us to go above the letter of the law and go beyond what the Torah requires of us. Rather than just being complacent in our observance of Torah, doing the bare minimum, Hashem wants us to develop our character traits on a spiritual basis, not just develop our physical lives with more stuff- i.e. a fancier home, flashy cars, designer clothing and furniture, elaborate gourmet cuisine, etc. By focusing one’s energy on accumulating more, and thinking that moderate Torah observance is enough, one is depraving himself from a truly wholesome life. For a Jew to live his life according to Hashem’s holy standards, we must aim to live a life where our physical desires are fed in moderation (Jews are not monks or priest, Hashem does not want us to be completely restricted, rather, He wants us to elevate the things He has given us, both through prayer and moderation , i.e. saying a blessing before and after we eat, laws of niddah that separate a man and woman for a certain period during the month). By limiting the amount we eat, drink, and not surrounding ourselves with excessive luxury, we can reach spiritual tranquility and aim for things in life beyond our natural animal instincts.
Every day we have the constant battle in our minds, the yatar hara versus the yatar hatov- the evil inclination vs. the good inclination. This struggle epitomizes the struggles we all have in attaining holiness.
In order to attain this level of kedusha, initially, one must sever contact with the many things that are against the Torah, i.e. dressing fashionably and immodestly, eating non-kosher food, and restraining ourselves in areas that are permitted, i.e. overindulging in wine, food, sexuality, etc. Moreover, levels of true kedusha are reached when one can come to terms with what the essence of his life is (getting as close as possible to Hashem, through subduing one’s animalistic desires). Secondly, Hashem promised the Jewish people, that those of us who seek to acquire kedusha will be assisted from Hashem Himself.
From all this, it is clear to see how aimless our pursuits are in the material world. In Hashem’s Divine world, all that counts are the spiritual efforts one strives for, through Torah observance and going above the letter of law, not just living within it’s boundaries. Essentially, those efforts are rewarded with eternal reward beyond our finite understanding. Unfortunately, our finite brains prefer the immediate gratification we seek from the success of our material pursuits. The beauty however, is that we have the power to take control over our lives and our spiritual growth; we don’t need to let the materialism take control over us.