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Parashat Ki Tetze: Kila’im and kedusha - What does “kedusha” really mean?

Parashat Ki Tetze: Kila’im and kedusha - What does “kedusha” really mean?

What does interplanting in the vineyard and sanctity have in common? This article takes a look at the term kedusha in different contexts, and sheds light on its positive and negative connotations.

Yoel Yakoby

“לֹא תִזְרַע כַּרְמְךָ כִּלְאָיִם פֶּן תִּקְדַּשׁ הַמְלֵאָה הַזֶּרַע אֲשֶׁר תִּזְרָע וּתְבוּאַת הַכָּרֶם”

“You shall not sow your vineyard with a second kind of seed, else the crop—from the seed you have sown—and the yield of the vineyard may not be used” (Devarim 22:9).

Observe mitzvot so your possessions won’t be destroyed?!

A certain food production factory became wild successful thanks to the mehadrin kashrut certification on its products. While the owner did not personally care about kashrut supervision, for business purposes he was willing to pay the Badatz for their supervision and meet their stringent kashrut standards.

Once the factory owner wanted to enhance one of his products by adding a certain food additive. He ordered large quantities of this additive and shortly thereafter it supplied to the warehouse. During a routine visit, a mashgiach saw the many sacks with the additive, and upon inspecting their certification realized that the ingredient would not be certified by the Badatz. He quickly told the factory owner point-blank that he did not approve including the new additive. The owner tried to argue that the additive was kosher, albeit under the supervision of a less stringent agency, but the mashgiach stood his ground. The argument ended when the mashgiach reached out to take down the kashrut certification on the wall. The factory owner immediately backed down and instructed his workers to get rid of all of the sacks in the warehouse, despite the considerable loss involved.

No one would be impressed by the exalted spiritual personality of the factory owner and his meticulous mitzvah observance. It’s obvious that he had no intention of being stringent about kashrut—he just wanted to keep his kashrut certificate so his business would not be harmed.

At first glance, the verse above that discusses kilei hakerem, interplanting in the vineyard— one of the most serious types of forbidden mixtures (since both the grapes and produce growing alongside the vineyard are forbidden to benefit from)—is using the same threat as the mashgiach. The verse is essentially saying: don’t sow other produce in your vineyard, since otherwise you will have to burn both the vine and the produce. Is this the reason not to interplant in the vineyard—so we won’t suffer financial loss?  If this, indeed, is the reason, the verse should say: “You shall not sow your vineyard with a second kind of seed, and if you do, the produce of the seed and vineyard may not be used.” If so, what is the reason for “פן תקדש”, “else [it] … may not be used” here?

Mitzvot and aveirot create reality

It seems that the issue here is not the financial loss. This is a much deeper statement: don’t sow a forbidden mixture. If you do, not only will you not be able to use the produce for the reason it is intended for—feeding people and giving them life—but it will also be rendered unfit for any other use, and will be burned.

When a person sins he creates a reality that did not previously exist. That is, the world becomes more corrupt following the sin. The converse is also true: if a person does a mitzvah, he creates a new reality and a better and brighter world. The Zohar discusses this concept at great lengths: the spiritual “buildings” one erects when doing mitzvot, and the destruction one wreaks when sinning. Keeping this in mind, it makes it much easier to pursue mitzvot and run away from aveirot.

Kedusha: deviating from the norm, for better or for worse

In this way we can better understand the use of the root ק.ד.ש, which we generally associate with something positive and lofty. Kadosh means: set off, deviating from the norm for better or for worse. A person who works on refining his character becomes kadosh, holy; he deviates from the norms of this world. In stark contrast, those who devote themselves to promiscuity are called a kadesh or kedeisha, as it appears in this week’s parasha (Devarim 23:18). They, too, deviate from social norms in a negative way.

Kilei hakerem are also “kodesh” in the negative sense. When a person plants a vineyard together with vegetables, grains, or legumes, he is undermining G-d’s natural order. The norm is that a farmer tills the soil to make a living and care for his physical needs. The produce is thus neutral, not positive or negative. If sowing in a warped manner (kila’im), the produce becomes kadosh and must be burned. If, in contrast, he consecrated them for mincha offerings or libations for the Temple service, they become kadosh in the positive sense.

Agricultural produce becoming kadosh in the positive sense is possible not only in the context of the Beit Hamikdash. During the shemita year (and following it for most fruits), much of the produce growing in Eretz Israel is sacred and must be handled accordingly. During the rest of the shemita cycle, “If one gives a gift to a Torah scholar, it is as if he offers up the first fruit” (Ketubot 105b), and “In the place of libation, one should fill the throats of Torah scholars with wine” (Yoma 71a).

The meaning here is not that scholars should lust, glutton-like to fill their throats with food and drink, G-d forbid. Rather … scholars, who are holy (kedoshim) in all of their deeds, are literally comparable to the sanctuary and the altar, for the Divine Presence dwells with them just as it dwelled in the sanctuary. Their consuming food is analogous to bringing up an offering and filling their throats is like filling the basins. (Mesilat Yesharim - Path of the Just ch. 26)

The Ramchal describes the kadosh as: “Clinging always to his G-d … in love and awe of His Creator” (ibid).

Whoever wants to go beyond nature can turn to good or evil. May it be G-d’s will that we can acquire the positive type of kedusha, the sanctity of our Creator.