Following as it does the laws of forbidden relationships at the end of parashat Acharei-Mot, Rashi explains the command “Be holy” קדשים תהיו as a command to remove oneself from immorality. Ramban in a famous commentary disagrees and says that the command is much broader, requiring a moderation of our activity even in what is permitted to us.


In addition to relationships, Ramban gives examples of gluttony, drunkenness, uncleanliness טומאה and crude speech in the confines of this command. He says very clearly that if we don’t moderate our activity in such permitted activities we are degenerate.


His approach is supported by other scholars also. Taking marital intimacy as an example, whilst the Maran takes quite a strict view (Orach Chaim 240), the Rama (Even Haezer 25:2) following Rambam, Rabbenu Yitzhak of Dampierre (the Ri) and the conclusion of the Talmudic discussion in Nedarim 20b, takes a more liberal view of what is permitted. Still each of the more lenient poskim (arbiter in Halacha) encourages moderation, mutual respect and piety in the way one behaves with one’s spouse.


It is instructive that unlike other mitzvot, applying Ramban’s interpretation of קדשים תהיו “be holy” is not precisely legislated in each sphere of its application. It is down to the individual with advice from a spiritual mentor to judge what is appropriate in his or her specific circumstances.


The impact of making the right choices in one’s diet, drink, work/life balance, private life, time allocated to Torah learning and carrying out acts of kindness versus earning a living should not be underestimated. It will have an impact on how grounded you are as a person, your ability to control your desires and addictions, your general happiness, your spiritual development and how much of a mensch you are and seen to be. טוב שם משמן טוב “a good name is better than a good oil”. Everything in moderation. שבת שלום.

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