The heavens will always remain heavens.

But the earth we can elevate and make heavenly.

Kotzker Rebbe [1]


G-d gave us 613 commandments. These are precise activators of holiness. In addition, G-d created man with physical and other needs — taking care of our health or earning a living, for example. Since G-d created that world which demands of us these actions, it is as if G-d commanded us to do them. [2] We are doing His Will, and doing His Will generates holiness. [3] We are holier because we breathe. We are holier because we eat. We are simply asked to think that all of our bodily necessities are there to serve the soul and not the other way around. [4]

If we eat food with the intention of using the strength and health it gives us to do good, then we have sanctified the food. The table we use to serve that food, or to host guests, or to beautify our lives with a flower vase on top of the table, all achieve this idea. We use our cars not only to get ourselves to work so we can support our family (a huge mitzvah in itself), but to give people rides, to deliver food packages, and to drive to the synagogue to pray. We see a glorious site of nature and use that inspiration to connect to G-d. We can harness almost anything to serve as a means for elevation and thereby sanctify it, and by failing to do this we drag the world down with our own failure. [5]

The Sages say, “Man is destined to give accounting (to G-d) on everything that his eyes saw and that was permissible, and of which he did not partake.” [6]

From this, it emerges that there is no such thing as a neutral act. All of our actions — the subway ride to work, the coffee we buy along the way, our daily interactions on the job, our relationship with significant others, and how we spend our leisure-time — have the potential to be sanctified. All are agents for the achievement of perfection. Moreover, it is precisely through the physical world that such perfection is achieved. G-d demands that we understand the profound spiritual consequences of everything we do. [7] Even when we don’t clearly see the impact of our actions, they ripple through the universe.

Continue reading How Does Holiness Work?


[1] Quoted by Menachem Posner,, based on Kochav Hashachar, by Simcha Raz.

[2] Ramchal, Derech Hashem 1:4:7. 

[3] Ibid.

[4] Derech Hashem, ibid. 

[5] Ramchal, Mesilat Yesharim, Chap. 1.

[6] Talmud Yerushalmi, Tractate Kiddushin, Chap. 4.

[7] Derech Hashem 1:4:4.

Read the previous essay, What Does it Mean to be Holy? Purchase a copy of The Human Challenge.

Olami Resources is happy to present a series of free installments featuring Rabbi Avraham Edelstein’s important new book, The Human Challenge. This week’s essay is from Section Two – Holiness

Rabbi Avraham Edelstein serves as the Education Director of Neve Yerushalayim College for Women and a senior advisor to Olami. Many of Rabbi Edelstein’s foundational publications addressing the world of Kiruv appear on

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