The instruction was to be holy.
God, we are told, is holy, and so too must we be holy.
Surely our holiness is a response to that essential quality of God, a reaction, an internalisation of the holiness of the Divine Being. It has been commanded of us, so it must be possible.
But what does it mean? What is it to be holy? What is holiness? What are we being told to do?
Perhaps the term k’doshim is not used here to merely mean ‘holy ones’, but rather sanctified, separate, reserved for a sacred purpose. And perhaps the statement is not one of imperative: “You must be holy, for I, your God, am holy”, but rather a pure and true statement of fact: “You will exist in a sanctified state, for I, your God and creator, am too a sacred being” – perhaps that truth in and of itself is enough for us to be intrinsically holy.
And perhaps our relationships with each other are our holiness, and are a reflection of the sacred nature bestowed upon us as a result of being created of, and through, divine holiness.
So where does my holiness reside? Surely if I discover who and where and what I am, I will be able to access that sanctified aspect, and thereby enter into relationships of holiness. Only then, perhaps, might I find God.
And so my investigation begins:
I am neither here nor there.
I am not to be defined by some set of terms which, when spelled out in some prescribed order, have the magical capacity to express the essence of my being. I exist in the conversation, in the give-and-take, in the relationship formed between us. If you seek to know me through factors external to that relationship, your knowledge is elemental at best, an abstraction of the reality which awaits a bonded connection. I will forever be refracted among the multitudes of broken images projected outwards to each and every mind, a kaleidoscope which refuses to be brought into focus from afar.
Draw near to me. Probe my mind and my heart. I am an open book to those who know how to read the essence of another. The dust jacket is merely there to protect me. The hard cover has been forged by traumas past and present and ongoing – a pithy title is embossed upon me, gilded and designed with an intentional flourish, but it reads differently to each beholder. Your fingers run over the words yet derive nothing. On the reverse, a collection of words and phrases seek to contain me in some easily consumed way – a quick glance and you may decide to set me back down – I am not what you are looking for today. Or, perhaps it will pique your interest, and you will seek that which is contained on the pages therein.
I am in the in-between.
The only trouble is that this Book of Me is not the same for you as it is for another. Does this confuse you? Surely, if the dust jacket is identical, and the title, and the cover looks the same, and all of the title page information matches, then you must be holding a book with the same contents as another. But no. If you bother to read, to enter into a relationship with the contents, you will find that this book is different for you than it is for any other reader. I, like you, exist in the flux nestled among the pages, teased out by the very act of engaging with the contents, shaped by the reader, changed on a quantum level by the very act of being observed.
I am in the in-between.
Enter into a relationship, and you will see that what lies in-between you and me is an entire universe. Sacred, sanctified, and infinitely vast. It doesn’t cost much, and the reward is to have earned another reader for the book of your own holy soul, should you wish to let it fall open. I am not the only one who resides in this space.
God resides here too, in the in-between.
And where God resides, holiness, sacredness, and sanctification have a home.
Matthew Turchin LBC rabbinic student
The views expressed in this D’var Torah do not necessarily reflect the position of Leo Baeck College.