Kedoshim 5779 – Holy is, as Holy Does

By: Dr. Jeffrey Buch

Kedoshim literally means “(the) Holy ones.”  Usually, the title of the Parshah is the first, second or third word, but this time it is the 14th word- or the 10th word if one counts hyphenated word combinations as single words.  Is this merely a coincidence or is this intent since the Parshah begins with recounting the Ten Commandments?  Is this a statement that to become Holy, the Ten Commandments are sufficient or are they a required starting point or again merely a coincidence?

Hashem begins the Parshah commanding Moshe to speak to the entire congregation informing them that “You shall be Holy: for I the Lord your G-d am Holy.”  The Parshah continues to recount the next nine of the Ten Commandments before expanding the requirements of Holiness.

Ethical behavior is critical to starting a civil society.  But it is a minimal requirement from which it is too easy for some of us to occasionally “fall off the wagon” of consistent ethical behavior.  This is where striving for “Holiness” takes over.

Holiness occurs when we appreciate an emotional or higher dimension link with one another, something beyond simple ethical transactions regulated by local and state laws.  Holiness is an expansive term.  It exemplifies the potential for infinite love, infinite compassion, infinite forgiveness and recognition that we are all connected to one another.  Holiness can start with something as obvious and tangible as the Second Commandment- to Honor one’s Mother and one’s Father.  How appropriate as Mother’s Day approaches- tomorrow!

But Holiness is, as Holiness does.  Holiness is not an aloof concept, only achievable by priests and the like.  Holiness is beyond acceptance of ethical principles… it is how each of us carry on our daily, oft mundane, interactions with one another, recognizing the “Spark of Life” that unites us all.  It is that recognition of the spark of life that we see, feel and hear as we interact with one another that unites us as Human Beings, and gives meaning to our lives.  Holiness is when we give from our hearts:  food or money for the poor; compassion to the ill; and compassion to the bereaved.  Holiness is the power we sense when we connect with each other in such a way that we never want the sensation of connection to end, nor can we resist the need to pursue more and more of such fulfilling connections.  It is the actions we pursue, not out of seeking recompense but rather feeling the necessity for that which yields meaning to Life.

This Parshah brings a Hasidic tale to my mind.  There was a miserly man of the community named Yosele.  He would never give to any charity when asked, no matter how nicely he was asked.  By the way, I am simplifying and paraphrasing this poignant tale.  The community had obvious negative feelings toward Yosele.  There was… quite to the contrary, an anonymous donor who would deliver money in envelopes to the poor, every Friday morning with just enough money to pay the rent or to pay for food for the next week.  When Yosele died, with no family to be found, he was buried in a small corner of the cemetery with no fanfare.  When next Friday morning came, there were no envelopes at the doorway of the poor.  All the poor, then sought out the Rabbi to tell them of their plight.  The Rabbi then realized that Yosele was a “Holy Miser”, who upheld the highest levels of giving Zedakah.  That is, that he gave anonymously to all the poor of the community, each according to his need.  Yosele was then moved to a prominent part of the cemetery commensurate with the Holiness with which he lived his life, in anonymity.

This Hasidic tale always brings tears to my eyes and energizes my Heart.  Truly, “Holy is… as Holy does.”  Shabbat Shalom.