וידבר ה' אל משה לאמר, דבר אל כל עדת בני ישראל ואמרת אליהם קדושים תהיו כי קדוש אני ה' אלקיכם, איש אמו ואביו תיראו ואת שבתותי תשמורו אני ה' אלקיכם.
“And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: speak to the entire congregation of Jewish people and tell them: ‘You shall be holy for I, Hashem your G-d, am holy. Each person should fear his mother and father, and keep My Shabbos, I am Hashem your G-d.” (Vayikra 19)
Hashem tells us to be holy because He is holy, but how do we understand this? Can we be as holy as Hashem? We humans have a yetzer hara and a physical body that pull us downward. How can we be as holy as Hashem? Furthermore, why does the same verse tell us to fear our parents and to keep Shabbos? What is the connection between these completely separate commandments?
The holy Ari writes that if a person faces a difficult test to his integrity, and he fears that the yetzer hara will persuade him to commit a sin, then he should picture in his mind the image of his father, which is a segulah to overcome the yetzer hara. We see this with Yosef who faced an incredible nisoyon. Our sages tell us (Soteh 36b) that he was saved from sin by seeing the image of his father. There is another segulah, continues the Ari, and that is to picture in one’s mind the image of a tzaddik.
We can understand why picturing the image of a tzaddik can deter a person from sin, because thinking about a tzaddik inspires the person to follow his example and emulate him. But why would picturing an image of one’s father deter a person from sin? Yosef’s father was the tzaddik Yakov, so picturing his image also had the segulah of picturing a tzaddik. But what about someone whose father is not a tzaddik?
Our sage do stress that Yosef saw an image of his father, and they do not say that he saw an image of his father Yakov. This shows us that the image of one’s father is by itself a powerful segulah to deter a person from sin, even if the father is not an exceptional tzaddik. So we are back to our original question, as to why picturing the image of one’s father would deter a person from sin.
The reason behind this segulah is that when a person remembers his father he connects with all of his predecessors. His father’s father, and his father, are all part of a long chain of ancestors connecting us to our holy Avos. It doesn’t matter if these ancestors were tzaddikim or just regular people; the fact that they connect us to our holy Forefathers is a strong deterrent to sin.
This is what the Torah is telling us in this verse. “You shall be holy,” you should distance yourself from sin. How can we achieve holiness when we have a yetzer hara that entices us to sin? “For I, Hashem your G-d, am holy.” Hashem is our Source, our Father, and since we are connected to Him, we can be holy too. But if we are wondering how we can achieve such a strong connection to Hashem, then we should remember to “fear our mother and father.” By looking up to our parents, and to their parents, we stay connected to all previous generations and to Hashem. “And keep My Shabbos,” the verse continues. The three meals of Shabbos are symbolic of the three Avos - Avrohom, Yitzchak and Yakov. Also, Shabbos is compared to a tzaddik, and keeping Shabbos is a similar segulah to picturing the image of a tzaddik. With these methods we will truly feel that “I am Hashem your G-d.” We will feel connected to Hashem and achieve true holiness.
It is also written that when a person is learning Torah he should picture in his mind the image of his Rebbe, or the image of any tzaddik. The Binyan Dovid quotes the Gemara (Kiddushin 82b): “Fortunate is the person who sees his parents at a lofty occupation. Woe to the person who sees his parent at an unworthy occupation.” He explains that, as we’ve just discussed, a person may picture the image of his parents or Rebbe when he faces a strong temptation to sin, or when he learns Torah. Woe to the person who faces such difficult nisyonos that he must use the segulah of thinking of his parents to refrain from doing something unworthy.
The Midrash says on this verse: “Send Your help from a holy source, and from Zion He shall support you.” A person should picture the image of his father or Rebbe in order to remain connected to a holy source and not transgress Hashem’s commandments. He should also picture their image when it come to learning Torah, which comes forth from Zion, and is our ultimate support. Although a person should use this segulah in both situations, it is far better to be able to use the segulah for Torah learning.
Hashem should help us stay connected to the previous generation, to our holy ancestors and Rebbes, and every person should be helped with whatever he needs, Amen.