Unfortunately, we live in a world where too many people have been brainwashed into believing that the highest expression of holiness is to kill those who are considered infidels or non-believers in what they perceive to be the ultimate truth. And so we repeatedly hear Allah Achbar…”God is Great” …as they commit their barbaric acts of murdering and attacking innocent people. For them, this act is regarded as the highest form of holiness, as they become heroes and martyrs in their communities.
Yes, I regret that the whole notion of holiness has been so perverted by so many. And I regret that for so many others, when we think of that word “holy,” we think of outward religious piety and ritual practice. We think of churches and mosques and synagogues. We think of ancient prayers and rituals that are recited and performed by rote as they are passed from generation to generation.
But for Judaism, the truest holiness has little to do with any of these things. Rather for us, holiness has everything to do with acts of kindness and compassion toward those who need and those who hurt. Holiness has everything to do with loving and with sharing and with seeking justice for all people.
A 20th Century Jewish thinker named Abraham Joshua Heshel said something that I think to be very profound. He said that….”What we have learned from Jewish history is that if a person is not more than human then he is less than human. Judaism is an attempt to prove that in order to be a human being you have to be more than a human being; that in order to be a people we have to be more than a people. Israel was made to be a “Holy People.” This is the essence of its dignity and the essence of its merit.”
No….we don’t use the world “holy” very often in our daily loves. But make no mistake about it. “There is holiness when we strive to be true to the best we know. There is holiness when we forget what divides us, and remember what unites us. There is holiness when we share…our bread, our blessings, our capacity for kindness.”