This week we find ourselves pregnant with Torah. This is how the rabbis refer to doubled Torah portions, as in Acharei Mot-Kedoshim. [Another week I will share how and why this happens.] The second portion begins with a declaration from Moses to the people on Behalf of the Holy One, "קדשים תהיו (Kedoshim Tihiyu) You shall be Holy!" And while its a rather simple instruction, much ink has been spilled about what it might really mean.
The verses that follows are often referred to as the Holiness Code. Lists of instructions, AKA mitzvot, that might guide us toward Holiness. Things like, Honor your parents; don't steal; don't place a stumbling block before the blind. And perhaps most famously, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19: 18). The text is so important, that many liberal communities (including KT) read it on the afternoon of Yom Kippur.
But holiness is not an easy concept to internalize. While I actually find these mitzvot to be useful instructions (as compared to some pretty offensive ones in the previous chapter), they also seem so concrete that I find it hard to conceive of holiness whole-cloth.
And so I offer you (once again) a piece of my morning prayer practice, words from the poet Marge Piercy, that help me connect to a clarity of purpose and the truth of our interdependence which I believe is at the heart of holiness.
"All living are one and holy, let us remember
As we eat, as we work, as we walk and drive.
All living are one and holy, we must
make ourselves worthy.
We must act out justice and mercy and healing
as the sun rises and as the sun sets,
as the moon rises and the stars wheel above us,
we must repair goodness...
We will try to be holy,
We will try to repair the world given us to hand on.
Precious is this treasure of words and knowledge and deeds that moves inside us,
Holy is the hand that works for peace and for justice,
Holy is the mouth that speaks for goodness
holy is the foot that walks toward mercy.
Let us lift each other on our shoulders and carry each other along.
Let holiness move in us.
Let us pay attention to its small voice,
Let us see the light in others and honor that light...
Praise the light that shines before us, through us, after us, Amen.
Rabbi Ari Lev
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.