By Rabbi Aaron Gol...
May 9, 2012
This Shabbat, April Miller read beautifully from Torah and gave this incredible Dvar Torah that wowed us all at NPLS. To have been involved in the thought process was to have been involved wtih a special mind that we hope to nurture.
The name of my portion is Kedoshim, which simply means ‘the plural of holy’. It reflects the essence of the Jewish way of life, and lays down laws and commandments for us to follow. There are some commandments in my portion which Rabbi Aaron and I felt were not appropriate for me to read today, but those commandments which we have included in my reading are those which had most relevance and made most sense to me. They have given me a great deal to think about, and in particular there are several which I want to talk about in my Dvar Torah.
The first of these is ‘You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.’ I found this commandment quite confusing. As much as it states that you must be holy, it doesn’t say how to portray this and why (other than God being holy) you should follow through this lesson. It doesn’t seem to make full sense as, if God is a perfect being and holy, and has no equivalent being, then how can an ordinary person also be holy?
And I have been thinking about what we consider to be holy and what it means to be holy. We see people who have taken a religious role in life, like rabbis, imams, priests. These people follow rules according to their religions based on their traditions and teaching. A lot of us see these people as ‘holy’ because they fulfill these roles and follow all the rules of their religions, but I wonder, does that make them holy? Is holiness about being religious, or is it about being good?
Very confusingly we also have people in our society who are terrorists and who consider what they do to be holy. They want everyone to live according to their beliefs and they also believe that everything that is not their belief is not holy. How can this be right because shouldn’t holiness be about how we live, how we treat each other and what’s in our hearts?
I expect holiness means lots of different things to different people and I suspect there are people who are incredibly religious who are not holy, and also people who are holy but who are not at all religious.
The next commandment which I want to discuss is ‘You shall fear your mother and father.’ What stood out in particular for this commandment was the word ‘fear’. I discussed this with Rabbi Aaron, and he suggested I change this word to revere for the translation, as that was what made more sense to me as it seems more modern and relevant. For starters, it seems odd to have to fear your own parents and I don’t think people do that so much these days.
However I do think that some fear should be felt in a relationship with your parents. Not a fear like you should be scared of your parents but one where you have a fear of disappointing them. For me, even if I don’t show it, the fear is always there, and I think everyone is born with an urge to constantly impress and not disappoint the ones who gave them life.
However revere is the word I would rather use to encapsulate the relationship and I think this version of the commandment makes sense to me. A parent shows a child how to live and learn and behave in society. The family where we grow up is our own little piece of society but it’s a part of the larger group. If by revering our parents we learn how to behave in our family then hopefully we will learn how to behave in society, and I think this is a good thing. But it’s not just about how to live, but also how to love. Your parents give you love and you love them in return and that is also contained in the aspect of reverence.