“Ye shall be holy, for I the L-RD your G-d am holy.”
– Leviticus 19:2, JPS 1917 Tanach
We are created b’tzelem Elokim – in the image of G-d – as is written, “And G-d created man in His own image, in the image of G-d created He him; male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:27, JPS). We are to imitate G-d, in a sincere effort to live up to that image. In specific, we should focus our efforts an attempt to approach His level of holiness, even if this may not be within our own power to do so. A steady walk on the path of righteousness, will at least bring us closer to that ideal.
Additonally, in terms of approaching G-d’s presence in prayer, we must remain humble. Consider, Nadav and Abihu, who raised themselves up above their status as kohanim, sons of Aaron (Leviticus 10:1-2). They did not recognize the boundaries placed before themselves and H’Shem. They approached H’Shem in a manner that was less than respectful, in order to perform an unbidden incense service. The Torah infers that they approached H’Shem’s presence that appears between the two golden cherubim on the kapores – the cover of the Ark.
When Aaron is admonished in this passage, not to enter the Kadosh Kadoshim at all times (only once-a-year on Yom Kippur) this implies that Nadav and Avihu entered the Kadosh Kadoshim, behind the paroches, the veil or curtain that separated the inner sanctuary where the ark of the covenant was kept, from the rest of the Mishkan.Therefore, they served as a negative example, neglecting to maintain a high level of respect, awe, and reverence towards H’Shem.
H’Shem tells Moshe, “Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them: Ye shall be holy; for I the L-RD your G-d am holy” (Leviticus 19:2, JPS). A question may be asked, relevant to the theme of kedushah (holiness), how are we able to even approach the level of G-d’s holiness? The example of Nadav and Avihu show that this is risky. Again, this is an ideal standard, that we are to simply set as our goal. Yet, its attainment is by no means simple, nor even possible without H’Shem at the helm of our ship, guiding our way upon the ocean of life.