What is Holiness?

By: Honey Good

My curiosity to learn the history of my religion began when I was a little Jewish girl growing up in a small central Illinois town I renamed, Kankakee by the Sea! I finally found  the time to delve into the history of the Jewish people in my sixties! I heard of a study class being taught on The Torah and decided to enroll. It was led by a learned Orthodox Rabbi, a man with great knowledge of the Torah. The Torah is the ceremonial and civil laws of the Jewish peoples as well as the history of Jewish culture.

Six months into my weekly class I asked for a meeting with the Rabbi. We met at his Synagogue.

“Rabbi Posner, I have learned so much in class. Thank you. I want to take my studies further and study for my Bat Mitzvah.”

“Is your mother alive?” he asked.

He caught me off guard.

“Yes, Rabbi.”

“Do you have daughters?”

Again I was caught off guard!

“Yes, Rabbi.” I have two daughters.

“What is your Hebrew name?”

“Sarah.” I answered.

The Rabbi went on. “Sarah was the first Jewish woman in the history of Judaism to light the Shabbat candles. Now that I have known you for a period of time I recommend that you celebrate your Bat Mitzvah in conjunction with Shabbat. Welcome your family and friends to your Shabbat dinner table and conduct your Bat Mitzvah in the center reaching out to your guests with your Bat Mitzvah message. When you light the Shabbat candles have your mother, daughters, granddaughters and your girlfriends light their candles at their place settings as you light yours. This is how I perceive your essence.”

“That is so absolutely perfect!” I said with a huge smile on my face.

And thus began my year of study. I studied with an Orthodox Rabbi and his wife (who taught me how to bake Challah!) and I learned my history. I also studied with a Reform Rabbi who taught me the last six months of my studies. I had the best teachers. I learned to speak Hebrew. I learned my history. I learned about the word HOLY that I want to share with you. I had sixty people at my Bat Mitzvah. My husband Shelly and I served a Shabbat dinner, after I completed my Bat Mitzvah, at a dining room table that our family and friends sat around with Shabbat candles aglow. My message: the role the woman plays in teaching Judaism in the home and the meaning of the word, Holiness.

And now I want to share the abstract meaning of the word "holy" and the lesson I learned from the Reform Rabbi.

At my first lesson the Rabbi asked, “What role does the word "holy" play in your daily life?”

I was speechless and pondered over his statement. My only answer at that meeting was, “I never thought about the word "holy" in my daily life. I think about holy as up in the heavens…God. It has no bearing on the daily life of mortals.”

I then asked him, “Do you know any Holy people and if you do what makes a person holy?”

I will never forget his answer, “I know people who have pieces of holiness.”

I loved his answer. And to this day that is the one statement I will never forget in my one year of study. I went on, “So you are saying that no human being is truly holy?”

He paused and then answered. “I've met one person who I feel is truly holy."

“Who?”

He paused and then decided to share his feelings. “The Dali Lama. It is his state of mind.”

I drove home from my lesson wondering about ‘pieces of holiness.’ Do I have pieces of holiness?

As I drove with my Hebrew music playing in the background I tempted myself to answer the question and these were my thoughts.

Holiness for me is lighting the Shabbat candles on Friday evening and saying a blessing for my family…and feeling joy.

Holiness is when someone upsets me and…I try and think before I speak

Holiness is walking on the beach with my husband Shelly and my pooch, Orchid and…feeling overwhelmingly appreciative for my life and feeling content.

Holiness is being honest, kind and…trying to be a good person.

Holiness is being a charitable person and having empathy for others…and feeling it is no effort.

Holiness is feeling such love for my children and grandchildren and mother and…feeling blessed.

Of course darlings to ‘err is human’…and I have had my share of errs!

If I could grant each and everyone of you one wish today, it would be to leave this blog with the word "holiness" added to your vocabulary. It is a profound word. Just to say it makes you feel ‘GOOD’.

Do something GOOD today: Buy your grandchildren, children and yourselves, darlings, a book written by the Dali Lama on his daily lessons.

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