Finding Holiness on a Zoom Call by Avram Ellner, Rosh Nachshonim
Now more than ever, we need reminders, and not just that we have another Zoom call in 15 minutes and should eat and drink something beforehand! While we need those reminders too, we also need to be reminded of the larger context of our lives. We need those words of encouragement and love from friends and family – the phone calls, the group virtual game nights playing Psych!, the “I love you” text messages. We need these relationships to be reminded, and to remind others, that while now we are separate, we are not isolated.
We read two Torah portions this week, Acharei Mot and K’doshim, and they too serve as reminders of the larger context of our lives, of why we do the things we do, and who we are. In K’doshim, we are reminded of our holiness three times:
“You will be holy because I, The Holy One your God, am holy” (Lev. 19:2).
“You will make yourselves holy, and you will be holy” (20:7).
“I, The Holy One, make you holy” (20:8).
In each of these reminders, “you” is plural – God speaks to the collective. We will be holy. We will make ourselves holy. The Holy One makes us holy. For our people, holiness has always been a communal endeavor.
Furthermore, we are reminded in this parsha that not only does God make us holy, but we make ourselves holy. It is through our collective action that we create the holiness which permeates our lives and joins us together.
The parsha emphasizes actions as the gateway to holiness, and therefore, we must ask ourselves, “What are the actions we can take, right now, in this unfolding moment of great uncertainty, to make ourselves holy?” We make ourselves holy by reminding each other of our holiness, by expressing our love, care, and support, and by allowing ourselves to be loved, to be cared for, and to be supported when we recognize that we cannot do it alone.
We make ourselves holy through talking with our parents, even when it doesn’t feel like there’s anything new to talk about.
We make ourselves holy when we reach out to a friend we haven’t spoken to in months, or even years, and ask how they are holding up.
We make ourselves holy when we shop at local, family-owned businesses because they need our support.
We make ourselves holy when we do what we can to support our healthcare professionals and essential workers.
We make ourselves holy when we make face masks to send out to those in need.
We make ourselves holy when we use the 50 lbs of flour we bought to make challah for Shabbat.
We make ourselves holy when we allow ourselves to feel what we are feeling, even when we’re sad, angry, or anxious.
We make ourselves holy when we choose a funny Zoom virtual background to add some levity to the call.
In this moment, this is how we create holiness in our lives. While “kadosh” also means “separate,” it does not mean “isolated.” Even in our separation, there is holiness to be found.