Holiness: Something to strive for or something inherent?
1א

Is holiness something that we have to strive for or is holiness inherent in each one of us?

2ב
(א) וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יהוה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר (ב) דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־כָּל־עֲדַ֧ת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל וְאָמַרְתָּ֥ אֲלֵהֶ֖ם קְדֹשִׁ֣ים תִּהְי֑וּ כִּ֣י קָד֔וֹשׁ אֲנִ֖י יהוה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃

(1) The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: (2) Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy.

3ג

If the command stopped right there, what might we think holiness entails?

4ד

(א) וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יהוה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר (ב) דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־כָּל־עֲדַ֧ת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל וְאָמַרְתָּ֥ אֲלֵהֶ֖ם קְדֹשִׁ֣ים תִּהְי֑וּ כִּ֣י קָד֔וֹשׁ אֲנִ֖י יהוה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃ (ג) אִ֣ישׁ אִמּ֤וֹ וְאָבִיו֙ תִּירָ֔אוּ וְאֶת־שַׁבְּתֹתַ֖י תִּשְׁמֹ֑רוּ אֲנִ֖י יהוה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃ (ד) אַל־תִּפְנוּ֙ אֶל־הָ֣אֱלִילִ֔ים וֵֽאלֹהֵי֙ מַסֵּכָ֔ה לֹ֥א תַעֲשׂ֖וּ לָכֶ֑ם אֲנִ֖י יהוה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃ (ה) וְכִ֧י תִזְבְּח֛וּ זֶ֥בַח שְׁלָמִ֖ים לַיהוה לִֽרְצֹנְכֶ֖ם תִּזְבָּחֻֽהוּ׃ (ו) בְּי֧וֹם זִבְחֲכֶ֛ם יֵאָכֵ֖ל וּמִֽמָּחֳרָ֑ת וְהַנּוֹתָר֙ עַד־י֣וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֔י בָּאֵ֖שׁ יִשָּׂרֵֽף׃ (ז) וְאִ֛ם הֵאָכֹ֥ל יֵאָכֵ֖ל בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֑י פִּגּ֥וּל ה֖וּא לֹ֥א יֵרָצֶֽה׃ (ח) וְאֹֽכְלָיו֙ עֲוֺנ֣וֹ יִשָּׂ֔א כִּֽי־אֶת־קֹ֥דֶשׁ יהוה חִלֵּ֑ל וְנִכְרְתָ֛ה הַנֶּ֥פֶשׁ הַהִ֖וא מֵעַמֶּֽיהָ׃ (ט) וּֽבְקֻצְרְכֶם֙ אֶת־קְצִ֣יר אַרְצְכֶ֔ם לֹ֧א תְכַלֶּ֛ה פְּאַ֥ת שָׂדְךָ֖ לִקְצֹ֑ר וְלֶ֥קֶט קְצִֽירְךָ֖ לֹ֥א תְלַקֵּֽט׃ (י) וְכַרְמְךָ֙ לֹ֣א תְעוֹלֵ֔ל וּפֶ֥רֶט כַּרְמְךָ֖ לֹ֣א תְלַקֵּ֑ט לֶֽעָנִ֤י וְלַגֵּר֙ תַּעֲזֹ֣ב אֹתָ֔ם אֲנִ֖י יהוה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃ (יא) לֹ֖א תִּגְנֹ֑בוּ וְלֹא־תְכַחֲשׁ֥וּ וְלֹֽא־תְשַׁקְּר֖וּ אִ֥ישׁ בַּעֲמִיתֽוֹ׃ (יב) וְלֹֽא־תִשָּׁבְע֥וּ בִשְׁמִ֖י לַשָּׁ֑קֶר וְחִלַּלְתָּ֛ אֶת־שֵׁ֥ם אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ אֲנִ֥י יהוה׃ (יג) לֹֽא־תַעֲשֹׁ֥ק אֶת־רֵֽעֲךָ֖ וְלֹ֣א תִגְזֹ֑ל לֹֽא־תָלִ֞ין פְּעֻלַּ֥ת שָׂכִ֛יר אִתְּךָ֖ עַד־בֹּֽקֶר׃ (יד) לֹא־תְקַלֵּ֣ל חֵרֵ֔שׁ וְלִפְנֵ֣י עִוֵּ֔ר לֹ֥א תִתֵּ֖ן מִכְשֹׁ֑ל וְיָרֵ֥אתָ מֵּאֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ אֲנִ֥י יהוה׃ (טו) לֹא־תַעֲשׂ֥וּ עָ֙וֶל֙ בַּמִּשְׁפָּ֔ט לֹא־תִשָּׂ֣א פְנֵי־דָ֔ל וְלֹ֥א תֶהְדַּ֖ר פְּנֵ֣י גָד֑וֹל בְּצֶ֖דֶק תִּשְׁפֹּ֥ט עֲמִיתֶֽךָ׃ (טז) לֹא־תֵלֵ֤ךְ רָכִיל֙ בְּעַמֶּ֔יךָ לֹ֥א תַעֲמֹ֖ד עַל־דַּ֣ם רֵעֶ֑ךָ אֲנִ֖י יהוה׃ (יז) לֹֽא־תִשְׂנָ֥א אֶת־אָחִ֖יךָ בִּלְבָבֶ֑ךָ הוֹכֵ֤חַ תּוֹכִ֙יחַ֙ אֶת־עֲמִיתֶ֔ךָ וְלֹא־תִשָּׂ֥א עָלָ֖יו חֵֽטְא׃ (יח) לֹֽא־תִקֹּ֤ם וְלֹֽא־תִטֹּר֙ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י עַמֶּ֔ךָ וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵעֲךָ֖ כָּמ֑וֹךָ אֲנִ֖י יהוה׃ (יט) אֶֽת־חֻקֹּתַי֮ תִּשְׁמֹרוּ֒ בְּהֶמְתְּךָ֙ לֹא־תַרְבִּ֣יעַ כִּלְאַ֔יִם שָׂדְךָ֖ לֹא־תִזְרַ֣ע כִּלְאָ֑יִם וּבֶ֤גֶד כִּלְאַ֙יִם֙ שַֽׁעַטְנֵ֔ז לֹ֥א יַעֲלֶ֖ה עָלֶֽיךָ׃ (פ) (כ) וְ֠אִישׁ כִּֽי־יִשְׁכַּ֨ב אֶת־אִשָּׁ֜ה שִׁכְבַת־זֶ֗רַע וְהִ֤וא שִׁפְחָה֙ נֶחֱרֶ֣פֶת לְאִ֔ישׁ וְהָפְדֵּה֙ לֹ֣א נִפְדָּ֔תָה א֥וֹ חֻפְשָׁ֖ה לֹ֣א נִתַּן־לָ֑הּ בִּקֹּ֧רֶת תִּהְיֶ֛ה לֹ֥א יוּמְת֖וּ כִּי־לֹ֥א חֻפָּֽשָׁה׃ (כא) וְהֵבִ֤יא אֶת־אֲשָׁמוֹ֙ לַֽיהוה אֶל־פֶּ֖תַח אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד אֵ֖יל אָשָֽׁם׃ (כב) וְכִפֶּר֩ עָלָ֨יו הַכֹּהֵ֜ן בְּאֵ֤יל הָֽאָשָׁם֙ לִפְנֵ֣י יהוה עַל־חַטָּאת֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֣ר חָטָ֑א וְנִסְלַ֣ח ל֔וֹ מֵחַטָּאת֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר חָטָֽא׃ (פ) (כג) וְכִי־תָבֹ֣אוּ אֶל־הָאָ֗רֶץ וּנְטַעְתֶּם֙ כָּל־עֵ֣ץ מַאֲכָ֔ל וַעֲרַלְתֶּ֥ם עָרְלָת֖וֹ אֶת־פִּרְי֑וֹ שָׁלֹ֣שׁ שָׁנִ֗ים יִהְיֶ֥ה לָכֶ֛ם עֲרֵלִ֖ים לֹ֥א יֵאָכֵֽל׃ (כד) וּבַשָּׁנָה֙ הָרְבִיעִ֔ת יִהְיֶ֖ה כָּל־פִּרְי֑וֹ קֹ֥דֶשׁ הִלּוּלִ֖ים לַיהוה׃ (כה) וּבַשָּׁנָ֣ה הַחֲמִישִׁ֗ת תֹּֽאכְלוּ֙ אֶת־פִּרְי֔וֹ לְהוֹסִ֥יף לָכֶ֖ם תְּבוּאָת֑וֹ אֲנִ֖י יהוה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃ (כו) לֹ֥א תֹאכְל֖וּ עַל־הַדָּ֑ם לֹ֥א תְנַחֲשׁ֖וּ וְלֹ֥א תְעוֹנֵֽנוּ׃ (כז) לֹ֣א תַקִּ֔פוּ פְּאַ֖ת רֹאשְׁכֶ֑ם וְלֹ֣א תַשְׁחִ֔ית אֵ֖ת פְּאַ֥ת זְקָנֶֽךָ׃ (כח) וְשֶׂ֣רֶט לָנֶ֗פֶשׁ לֹ֤א תִתְּנוּ֙ בִּבְשַׂרְכֶ֔ם וּכְתֹ֣בֶת קַֽעֲקַ֔ע לֹ֥א תִתְּנ֖וּ בָּכֶ֑ם אֲנִ֖י יהוה׃ (כט) אַל־תְּחַלֵּ֥ל אֶֽת־בִּתְּךָ֖ לְהַזְנוֹתָ֑הּ וְלֹא־תִזְנֶ֣ה הָאָ֔רֶץ וּמָלְאָ֥ה הָאָ֖רֶץ זִמָּֽה׃ (ל) אֶת־שַׁבְּתֹתַ֣י תִּשְׁמֹ֔רוּ וּמִקְדָּשִׁ֖י תִּירָ֑אוּ אֲנִ֖י יהוה׃ (לא) אַל־תִּפְנ֤וּ אֶל־הָאֹבֹת֙ וְאֶל־הַיִּדְּעֹנִ֔ים אַל־תְּבַקְשׁ֖וּ לְטָמְאָ֣ה בָהֶ֑ם אֲנִ֖י יהוה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃ (לב) מִפְּנֵ֤י שֵׂיבָה֙ תָּק֔וּם וְהָדַרְתָּ֖ פְּנֵ֣י זָקֵ֑ן וְיָרֵ֥אתָ מֵּאֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ אֲנִ֥י יהוה׃ (פ) (לג) וְכִֽי־יָג֧וּר אִתְּךָ֛ גֵּ֖ר בְּאַרְצְכֶ֑ם לֹ֥א תוֹנ֖וּ אֹתֽוֹ׃ (לד) כְּאֶזְרָ֣ח מִכֶּם֩ יִהְיֶ֨ה לָכֶ֜ם הַגֵּ֣ר ׀ הַגָּ֣ר אִתְּכֶ֗ם וְאָהַבְתָּ֥ לוֹ֙ כָּמ֔וֹךָ כִּֽי־גֵרִ֥ים הֱיִיתֶ֖ם בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם אֲנִ֖י יהוה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃ (לה) לֹא־תַעֲשׂ֥וּ עָ֖וֶל בַּמִּשְׁפָּ֑ט בַּמִּדָּ֕ה בַּמִּשְׁקָ֖ל וּבַמְּשׂוּרָֽה׃ (לו) מֹ֧אזְנֵי צֶ֣דֶק אַבְנֵי־צֶ֗דֶק אֵ֥יפַת צֶ֛דֶק וְהִ֥ין צֶ֖דֶק יִהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֑ם אֲנִי֙ יהוה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־הוֹצֵ֥אתִי אֶתְכֶ֖ם מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ (לז) וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֤ם אֶת־כָּל־חֻקֹּתַי֙ וְאֶת־כָּל־מִשְׁפָּטַ֔י וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֹתָ֑ם אֲנִ֖י יהוה׃ (פ)

(1) The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: (2) Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy. (3) You shall each revere your mother and your father, and keep My sabbaths: I the LORD am your God. (4) Do not turn to idols or make molten gods for yourselves: I the LORD am your God. (5) When you sacrifice an offering of well-being to the LORD, sacrifice it so that it may be accepted on your behalf. (6) It shall be eaten on the day you sacrifice it, or on the day following; but what is left by the third day must be consumed in fire. (7) If it should be eaten on the third day, it is an offensive thing, it will not be acceptable. (8) And he who eats of it shall bear his guilt, for he has profaned what is sacred to the LORD; that person shall be cut off from his kin. (9) When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. (10) You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I the LORD am your God. (11) You shall not steal; you shall not deal deceitfully or falsely with one another. (12) You shall not swear falsely by My name, profaning the name of your God: I am the LORD. (13) You shall not defraud your fellow. You shall not commit robbery. The wages of a laborer shall not remain with you until morning. (14) You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind. You shall fear your God: I am the LORD. (15) You shall not render an unfair decision: do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich; judge your kinsman fairly. (16) Do not deal basely with your countrymen. Do not profit by the blood of your fellow: I am the LORD. (17) You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him. (18) You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the LORD. (19) You shall observe My laws. You shall not let your cattle mate with a different kind; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed; you shall not put on cloth from a mixture of two kinds of material. (20) If a man has carnal relations with a woman who is a slave and has been designated for another man, but has not been redeemed or given her freedom, there shall be an indemnity; they shall not, however, be put to death, since she has not been freed. (21) But he must bring to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, as his guilt offering to the LORD, a ram of guilt offering. (22) With the ram of guilt offering the priest shall make expiation for him before the LORD for the sin that he committed; and the sin that he committed will be forgiven him. (23) When you enter the land and plant any tree for food, you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden for you, not to be eaten. (24) In the fourth year all its fruit shall be set aside for jubilation before the LORD; (25) and only in the fifth year may you use its fruit—that its yield to you may be increased: I the LORD am your God. (26) You shall not eat anything with its blood. You shall not practice divination or soothsaying. (27) You shall not round off the side-growth on your head, or destroy the side-growth of your beard. (28) You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourselves: I am the LORD. (29) Do not degrade your daughter and make her a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry and the land be filled with depravity. (30) You shall keep My sabbaths and venerate My sanctuary: I am the LORD. (31) Do not turn to ghosts and do not inquire of familiar spirits, to be defiled by them: I the LORD am your God. (32) You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old; you shall fear your God: I am the LORD. (33) When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. (34) The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the LORD am your God. (35) You shall not falsify measures of length, weight, or capacity. (36) You shall have an honest balance, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin. I the LORD am your God who freed you from the land of Egypt. (37) You shall faithfully observe all My laws and all My rules: I am the LORD.

5ה

Leviticus Chapter 19 (bullet points inserted)

(1) The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: (2) Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy.

  • (3) You shall each revere your mother and your father,

  • and keep My sabbaths: I the LORD am your God.

  • (4) Do not turn to idols or make molten gods for yourselves: I the LORD am your God.

  • (5) When you sacrifice an offering of well-being to the LORD, sacrifice it so that it may be accepted on your behalf. (6) It shall be eaten on the day you sacrifice it, or on the day following; but what is left by the third day must be consumed in fire. (7) If it should be eaten on the third day, it is an offensive thing, it will not be acceptable. (8) And he who eats of it shall bear his guilt, for he has profaned what is sacred to the LORD; that person shall be cut off from his kin.

  • (9) When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. (10) You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I the LORD am your God.

  • (11) You shall not steal; you shall not deal deceitfully or falsely with one another.

  • (12) You shall not swear falsely by My name, profaning the name of your God: I am the LORD.

  • (13) You shall not defraud your fellow.

  • You shall not commit robbery.

  • The wages of a laborer shall not remain with you until morning.

  • (14) You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind.

  • You shall fear your God: I am the LORD.

  • (15) You shall not render an unfair decision: do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich; judge your kinsman fairly.

  • (16) Do not deal basely with your countrymen. Do not profit by the blood of your fellow: I am the LORD.

  • (17) You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart.

  • Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him.

  • (18) You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen.

  • Love your fellow as yourself: I am the LORD.

  • (19) You shall observe My laws.

  • You shall not let your cattle mate with a different kind;

  • you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed;

  • you shall not put on cloth from a mixture of two kinds of material. (shatnez)

  • (20) If a man has carnal relations with a woman who is a slave and has been designated for another man, but has not been redeemed or given her freedom, there shall be an indemnity; they shall not, however, be put to death, since she has not been freed. (21) But he must bring to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, as his guilt offering to the LORD, a ram of guilt offering. (22) With the ram of guilt offering the priest shall make expiation for him before the LORD for the sin that he committed; and the sin that he committed will be forgiven him.

  • (23) When you enter the land and plant any tree for food, you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden for you, not to be eaten. (24) In the fourth year all its fruit shall be set aside for jubilation before the LORD; (25) and only in the fifth year may you use its fruit—that its yield to you may be increased: I the LORD am your God.

  • (26) You shall not eat anything with its blood.

  • You shall not practice divination or soothsaying.

  • (27) You shall not round off the side-growth on your head, or destroy the side-growth of your beard. (28) You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.

  • (29) Do not degrade your daughter and make her a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry and the land be filled with depravity.

  • (30) You shall keep My sabbaths and venerate My sanctuary: I am the LORD.

  • (31) Do not turn to ghosts and do not inquire of familiar spirits, to be defiled by them: I the LORD am your God.

  • (32) You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old; you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.

  • (33) When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. (34) The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the LORD am your God.

  • (35) You shall not falsify measures of length, weight, or capacity. (36) You shall have an honest balance, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin.

  • I the LORD am your God who freed you from the land of Egypt. (37) You shall faithfully observe all My laws and all My rules: I am the LORD

6ו

Author: Rashi Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki.

Rashi lived in Troyes, France (1040-1105). Usually based on midrash and Talmud. He was a vintner by profession and lived during the first crusade.

7ז

דבר אל כל עדת בני ישראל. מְלַמֵּד שֶׁנֶּאֶמְרָה פָרָשָׁה זוֹ בְּהַקְהֵל מִפְּנֵי שֶׁרֹב גּוּפֵי תוֹרָה תְלוּיִּין בָּהּ (ספרא):

דבר אל כל עדת בני ישראל SPEAK UNTO ALL THE CONGREGATION OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL — This (the addition of the words כל עדת) teaches us that this section was proclaimed in full assembly because most of the fundamental teachings of the Torah are dependent on it (contained in it) (Sifra, Kedoshim, Section 1 1; Vayikra Rabbah 24:5).
8ח

Torah Temimah

Author: Barukh HaLevi Epstein

Composed in Pinsk, Belarus (c.1898 - c.1902 CE). Commentary on the Torah, consisting of a compilation of Talmudic and Halakhic passages relevant to each verse, with a brief explanation by the author.

9ט

קדושים תהיו וגו'. קדושים תהיו – פרושים תהיו, כי קדוש אני, לומר, שאם אתם מקדשים עצמכם מעלה אני עליכם כאלו קדשתם אותי

קדושים תהיו וגו. You are to be holy, meaning, separate. כי קדוש אני Because I am holy, meaning that if you sanctify yourselves, I will consider it as though you are sanctifying Me.

10י

Or HaChaim

Written by Rabbi Hayyim ben Moshe ibn Attar (1696-1743), a Moroccan Kabbalist and Talmudist.

11יא
קדושים תהיו. צריך לדעת מה הוא המכוון של מצוה זו. ונראה שבא הכתוב לתת עשה על העריות, שציוה עליהם בפרשה הקודמת בלאו, הוסיף עשה עליהם לעבור עליהם גם בעשה.

קדושים תהיו, "be holy!" We need to analyse what precisely God meant when He commanded us to either be or become "holy." I believe the Torah wanted to add a positive commandment as a corollary to the string of negative commandments we have just read in chapter 18. Inasmuch as God commanded us to be holy, a person who violates any of the transgressions of a sexual nature is not only guilty of violating a negative commandment but also simultaneously violates the commandment to strive and be holy.

12יב

עוד ירצה על דרך אומרם ז''ל (קידושין לט:) ישב אדם ולא עבר עבירה נותנים לו שכר כעושה מצוה, והוא מאמר הכתוב קדושים תהיו במצות עשה בבא עבירה לידו שיתרחק מעשות', ובזה קיים מצות עשה שנצטוו במאמר קדושים תהיו, והוציא זכרון מצוה זו בלשון זה של קדושים, לומר שכל המקיים מצוה זו נקרא קדוש, והוא מאמרם ז''ל (ויק''ר פכ''ד ירושלמי יבמות פ''ב יהוה'ד) ג''כ. ולטעם זה דקדק לומר אל כל עדת בני ישראל, לומר כי מצוה זו שמצוה קדושים תהיו היא מצוה שישנה בכל אדם, שכל איש ישראל בקיימו מצוה זו קדוש יאמר לו, ואין הדרגה בישראל שתהיה נמנעת מהשגה זו.

Furthermore, our verse may reflect something we have learned in Kidushin 39: "If a person sits quietly and refrains from committing a transgression he is given a reward as if he had performed a positive commandment. This is the meaning of our verse. If you are presented with an opportunity to commit a sin and you refrain from grasping that opportunity, you have fulfilled the commandment to be or to become holy. The reason God commanded Moses to tell this commandment directly to the whole congregation of Israel was to inform them directly of this and to show them how easy it is to be counted amongst the people described as "holy." Every single individual can achieve that spiritual level by merely fighting off the desire to violate a commandment when the opportunity presents itself. Every Israelite is on the same spiritual level concerning the acquisition of this merit.

13יג

Tur HaAroch

Written by R’ Jacob ben Asher (c. 1269 - c. 1343), known as Ba’al haTurim. Known mostly for his work on halakhah, he also wrote Torah commentary. The English translation is by Rabbi Eliyahu Munk.

14יד
כי קדוש אני יהוה אלהיכם. לומר שנזכה לדבקה בו בהיותינו קדושים והנה זה כענין הדבור הראשון שבעשרת הדברות. וצוה:

כי קדוש אני ה' אלוקיכם, “for I, the Lord your God am holy.” Naturally, God did not expect that we, the creatures, become like He, the Creator. But, He hopes and expects that we will try and emulate as many of His characteristics as it is possible for us to emulate, seeing we are only creatures. By doing this we can achieve דבקות, a measure of close attachment to the Divine, something the Torah encouraged us to do on several occasions (compare Deut. 10,20; 11,22; 30,20) In a way, this was the message of God revealing Himself to us in the first of the Ten Commandments.

15טו

At the same time, let's go back and look at the list in Lev. 19 of what we need to do to achieve holiness, what we need to do to be holy like God is holy. There are a few that deal with sacrifices and other rituals. And Shabbat is mentioned at the very top. But most of the commands have to do with relationships with other people:

  • honoring parents
  • social safety net for an agricultural society
  • honesty in social relations
  • honesty in business relations
  • timely payments of laborers
  • not insulting the deaf or putting stumbling blocks in front of the blind
  • fairness in justice -- not favoring the poor or giving deference to the privileged
  • honoring the elderly
  • aliens and strangers among you should be treated like everyone else
16טז

Original question. Is holiness something to strive for or is holiness inherent?

Conclusion:

When we are talking about ourselves, holiness is to strive for. We are commanded to be holy like God is holy. That is not easy and we have to work on it.

But when it comes to how we treat others, we must remember that every person is created in the image of God. We must consider that every person is thus holy and we must treat them accordingly.