Posted on May 1, 2020 by Rabbi Arnold S. Gluck
This week’s Torah reading includes the call to be holy. “You shall be holy, for I the Eternal your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:18) It is an awesome and daunting aspiration, especially because it is couched in the challenge to rise to this exalted place because God is holy. To be like God? How can this be expected of mere flesh and blood?
A Chassidic teaching reads the words from the Book of Exodus “You shall be holy people…” to mean that we should be humanly holy. In our human ways, yes, we can be godlike. What an extraordinary statement of confidence in human nature. And what a particularly helpful moment to be reminded of our capacity for goodness.
As we approach two months of isolation and separation, many of us are understandably becoming impatient with our confinement. Some are even acting out in ways that are unhelpful or even dangerous. Others are merely short-tempered or cranky, and people who genuinely love each other are beginning to get on each other’s nerves. None of this is surprising. We are all human, after all.
All of us.
And yet, to say that we are all human is also the highest compliment, because we human beings are remarkable creatures. Created in God’s image we are capable of great goodness, love, and kindness. In this week’s parashah, God commands us to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” because God knows that we are capable of giving and receiving love.”
It is easy to lose sight of this at a time of heightened stress and anxiety. But it is precisely during hard times that it is all the more important to remember who we are and what we are called to be. And it is not hard to find reminders all around. Consider the thousands of women and men who are risking their lives to care for others. Notice the acts of kindness neighbors are performing for each other. Look at the tender caresses and words of encouragement shared by parents, children, and friends to lift the spirits of those we love. Holiness and godliness are in abundant measure everywhere. See the signs and be inspired – inspired to reach just a little bit higher, to extend more kindness, more love, and more compassion. This is what will get us through and leave us the better for having weathered the storm as our best selves.
May we be blessed with Shabbat rest and peace, knowing that holiness abounds.
Rabbi Arnie Gluck