February 14, 2023

Nedarim 29

There is a fascinating phrase which is used twice in today’s daf (Nedarim 29a-b): ‘physical sanctity (literally, ‘the sanctity of the body’) does not depart of its own accord, but monetary sanctity does depart of its own accord’ – קְדוּשַּׁת הַגּוּף לָא פָּקְעָה בִּכְדִי, קְדוּשַּׁת דָּמִים פָּקְעָה בִּכְדִי.
What this means is that if money is consecrated, it can cease to have its consecrated status at a later date without any external intervention. In contrast, if a person is consecrated, then that person maintains their status unless an action is performed to change their status. Expressed differently, while money has no emotional relationship to holiness, human beings do.
Consequently, while the consecrated status of money can come and go effortlessly, revoking the consecrated status of a human being cannot be automatic because human beings naturally attach themselves – and thereby have an emotional relationship with – holiness.
Applying this idea more broadly, this explains why human beings are drawn to visiting what they consider to be holy places, and why they seek wisdom from whom they consider to be holy people, and why they are so moved when they experience what they regard as being holy moments, because we yearn for and seek holiness in all its forms.
Yet while all this may be true, there is a powerful concept worthwhile recalling which is central to Judaism – namely that while there may be people who have dedicated more time in their pursuit of holiness, fundamentally each one of us is holy, and though we can be inspired by these places, people and moments, it is not because they are holy and we are not, but rather, because each one of us is holy and, it is precisely because this is so which is why we are drawn to other sources of holiness.
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