What does it mean to live holy? Do I even want to live holy? Why would I want to live holy?
These may be questions you’ve pondered from time to time. Yes, although I was born into an observant home and I am a Rabbi, I still, from time to time, ponder this question. More so in my heart than in my head, but nonetheless…
If whole means perfect, then being holy doesn’t mean being whole. Because we are not perfect and can never be perfect (only G-d is perfect) and yet G-d wants us to be holy.
Holy means set aside, designated. In the Holy Torah context; designated for a unique job. That is to be real, authentic and vulnerable in our relationship with ourselves and in turn with G-d. That means navigating the Mitzvot in the Torah in an embracing manner.
We don’t become unholy because we desire to do things that the Torah forbids; that makes us human. We are holy because even though we desire to do things that the Torah forbids, we choose to be designated to live higher.
If we see ourselves as unholy because of our human desires, we are actually wrapped up in a distortion of self and a distortion of G-d. It is a short path from there to failure and giving in to temptation.
If however we see ourselves as humans with normal human temptation but empowered to be designated and holy, we can rise to the occasion and navigate to higher living.
The opening of this week’s Parsha “Speak to the kohanim, the sons of Aaron, and say to them”. Our sages say the expression of speak and say is to instruct the elders regarding the young’uns. That is that the elders have a responsibility to educate the young’uns.
Earlier generations had a harsher tone and were less embracing of their own humanity. Perhaps it’s time for us to teach our children to embrace their humanity and find authentic holiness in overcoming struggle.
Have a good Shabbos!
Rabbi Mendel Schusterman
Thanks to my brother, Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman, of Chabad Intown, Atlanta, for sharing the above thought.