D’var Torah: What is holy?

Here is a D’var Torah I gave Friday night at dinner after services, with only a few hours notice! Enjoy, and note that actual delivery was slightly different than the written word!

One of the things my classmates and I often joke about is that while rabbinical school may train us to be rabbis, we should write a book, “what to expect when you’re expecting: to become a Rabbi.” No one told me that anytime I came home, I’d be rabbi in residence for the weekend. When Mickey asked me to teach at dinner tonight, I gladly accepted and then realized I had to have something profound, interesting, stimulating and totally different from my d’var torah in services to say. So, if you didn’t like the first teaching, try this one on for size!

This week’s parshah, Tetzaveh is all about holy vestments, the holiness of the sacrifices, the priests. But, what is holy? ANSWERS/Discussion

What makes something holy?

I ask because whenever someone asks this question it seems we all say the same thing, sacred, special, separate, but none of those answers really define what is holy? What is Kadosh? In the parshah, it states that you should do something with the sacrificial meat because they are holy, but it always leaves me hanging with the question of why. I have been thinking about this on a daily basis, and I haven’t been able to come up with a word or two to describe what makes something holy for me.

As I was thinking about what to say tonight, I started reflecting on what makes our community, Adat Shalom holy for me. I can’t wait to come home and return to this great place, so there has to be a reason. I came up with 4 words or phrases that match the root letters KUF DALED and SHIN in Kadosh.

First, KUF: Kavannah and Keiruv. For me, something is Kadosh when it has kavannah, an intention, there is purpose to it, and this purpose brings it meaning. Kuf for me also stands for Keiruv, the Jewish principle of welcoming people into the community. We sang Shalom Aleichem at the beginning of dinner, welcoming in the ministering angels of the Kadosh Baruch Hu; of the holy one blessed is his name- Kadosh in welcoming. As we sit here tonight, we are a group who has chosen to come together, get to know one another, make the community of Adat Shalom a little bit smaller.

The second letter, DALED for me represents DOR V’DOR, generation to generation. Something is Kadosh because of the nostalgia, significance it carries from generation to generation. When we say the Kedushah in our Amidah, one of our central prayers, we praise God in the transference of our traditions from generation to generation. How often is a talit given to a grandchild from a grandparent? A Kiddush cup? A synagogue community. Just as the priestly garments are Kadosh because they are passed on l’dor v’dor, so to our community is Kadosh because we have existed and welcomed l’dor v’dor. I am proof of that.

Finally, the third letter, SHIN represents Shalem, the root word we have in both the word Shalem for completeness but also Shalom for peace. Something is Kadosh when it is complete. We are here, sitting together bringing an end to our week, completing the work we were meant to do and moving into a space of rest and peace. Adat Shalom is a complete community, our synagogue offers services for every moment of life, and celebrates those occasions where we feel a sense of completeness and peace.

As we eat together and welcome in Shabbat, we are performing a holy act. Each of you has chosen to join this community, Adat Shalom, this congregation of peace for all that it offers. For me, this is kadosh.

And so, I leave you with the same question I began with, some food for thought, what makes something holy for you? How is your life holy?


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