So what is the difference between tahara and kedusha, as it is clear in the Mesilas Yesharim and other sources that they are two completely different concepts?
We learned that in tahara one is completely free of ulterior motive; everything the person does is for the sake of Heaven, both the mitzvos (there can be, after all, other motivations, such as social standing, one-upsmanship, or the hope of monetary gain); and even the performance of one’s physical needs are done solely in the context of fulfilling Hashem’s will.
So what is kedusha?
The Mesilas Yesharim explains kedusha to exist when the person “is totally removed and detached from physicality and is completely bonded to Hashem and the spiritual all the times, at any moment. “
And then the Mesilas Yesharim continues, “Realize the difference between a tahor and a kadosh. The tahor performs his physical needs out of a sense of necessity; the person is only performing these tasks out of a sense of being compelled to perform them, out of a sense that it is Hashem’s will; through that, one purifies the physical, it loses any connection to evil, to ta’avah and self-indulgence; but those actions are not kadosh — holy. They are necessary to survive and live, but they remain physical. If it would be possible to do without, then certainly the person would be better off. But the kadosh, who is totally connected and bonded to spirituality, feels as if everything he is doing is connected to Hashem, and he is “walking with Hashem” in this world. “
To explain further : The tahor, as he is involved with the physical world — eating, drinking, working, family life — does it purposefully for the end result: i.e., whatever Hashem’s will is. But were we to separate the actions leading to the goal from the goal itself, the physical actions have no inherent purpose or intrinsic value. He feels compelled to do what he does. But the kadosh uplifts and elevates the very actions he is doing; he is able to relate to them as emanating from and directly linked to Hakadosh Boruch Hu. He is able to connect everything in this word to its spiritual roots, and, as such, can see the holiness in what he is doing, for certainly there is a linkage, albeit in a very very long chain, between every single thing in this world and Hashem Himself!
When a person goes to work, he is involved in the everyday world, olam hazeh, the physical. The tahor knows the purpose: to be able to live and function, which enables one to live and learn Torah and do mitzvos and serve Hashem. But that is the purpose only; the physical remains physical. The kadosh, on the other hand, is able to relate to this world as a kohen in the Beis Hamikdash related to the avodah there: the slaughtering of the animal, the korban meat that they would eat within the confines of the azarah, the burning of the incense — all these things clearly had very lofty, exalted, sublime, counterparts in Heaven. And actually, so does everything! And the kadosh is able to relate and to link to that, making what he is doing inherently holy and consecrated. As Chazal tell us regarding Chanoch (Bereishis 5:22, 24) “Chanoch was a shoemaker, and with every stitch he would say ‘Boruch shem k’vod malchuso l’olam va’ed.’” This is indeed the very highest level, where a person sees and experiences G-dliness in everything of this world. And indeed, when we talk about something being kadosh, we are talking about the elevation and empowerment of this world as the vehicle of G-dliness at this level.
Let us now return to the question posed as to the “contradictory” hashkafos expressed by Chazal. Do we curtail expenditures, and do things in a minimalist fashion, or do we exhibit the glory, grandeur, and magnificence of the House of the Lord in a maximalist way? And we cited the Noda B’Yehuda who says, without explanation, that the latter approach is used when something has kedushas haguf, if it is fundamentally holy (as opposed to monetary holiness, where just the value of the item is kadosh).
Now we can understand this differentiation beautifully!
When something is not fully kadosh, then even if it is fully tahor, the physical remains physical, a necessary ‘evil’. In that vein, we do not want to get involved in making sure everything is “top-o’-the-line” A1, five star, deluxe, first-class, top-notch. On the contrary, we call into play the values of thrift, frugality, even austerity. We fear to get so involved with money and high-end wealth, as it is a corrupting, even subversive, value.
BUT… when something is kadosh, and the physical is transformed into spiritual, and we relate to it as a spiritual derivation and emanation, appearing in physical form (think sefer Torah, or korban), then we want it to appear in all its majesty, prestige, and splendor. And we are not fearful of corruption, as we are in a place where every perfection is a reflection of a spiritual beauty; why would we minimize that? It is giving honor where true honor is due. It is the honor of Hakadosh Baruch Hu, no stinting there!
My friends, the mitzvah of mikveh is more than just a way to remove tumah (though ostensibly that is primarily what it is for). We are talking about kedusha. As is well known, the early Rishonim referred to these halachos as sha’rei kedusha, for it represents the Shechinah bonding with Klal Yisrael in the most sublime and transcendent of ways. Surely conceptually this demands a mikveh which is “state-of-the-art” and “cutting-edge” in terms of beauty, modernity, tznius, cleanliness, privacy, dignity, allowing for deliberateness (no rushing), and open and welcoming to one and all, allowing for — asking for! — feedback; and all-in-all, creating a spiritual, kadosh experience on a standard heretofore not common, certainly not in Ramat Beit Shemesh. And who is to say how many people will be encouraged by such a facility to make use of it (a reality in BS and RBS that many of us have no inkling of)?
And so, when you are asked to contribute to this great communal undertaking, please respond as befits such a kadosh undertaking!