What Is Holiness? Reflections For Yom KippurOctober 8, 2019
Welcoming The New Year
Ten days ago, Jews around the world began their most important observant holiday with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Families and friends gather around their dinner tables to welcome in the New Year, wishing one another good health and a sweet year.
This holy time of ten days is the time to contemplate our misdeeds and imperfect actions. On the tenth day beginning at sunset starts Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Jews around the world fast all day and attend services in their synagogues to reflect and contemplate the past year. We should let go of past anger, misgivings and forgive those who unintentionally or intentionally hurt us. This is our private time for personal growth.
At sundown the following day, we meet with our families and friends to break the fast and celebrate again around our dining room tables. We are moving forward with a clean emotional slate. It’s a time for Jewish families and friends to gather together to celebrate this religious and historic holiday.
I know, from my personal experiences, that there will be family festivities with lots of chatter, laughter, and delicious foods! There will be moms and dads, siblings, grandparents and darling grandchildren seated around dining room tables all over the world. But there will also be something deeper during this religious holiday, which is why today I want to talk about defining holiness.
I Am Reminded of a Story
Since it is Yom Kippur, I am reminded of a story I told my family. I discussed holiness: a word that includes all faiths–a story that can be told to all.
I was asked a question, by my Rabbi when I was studying for my Bat Mitzvah four years ago. “What is holiness? What role does it play in your daily life?” He caught me off guard. I was speechless. Finally, I answered.
“I never think about holiness in my daily life. Holiness to me is in the heavens. It is God. It has no bearing on the daily life of a mortal.” I continued and tested him with my question, “Do you know any holy people on earth?”
In my mind, his answer was equally unexpected and divine. “I know people who have pieces of holiness.”
“I asked him,” Do you know anyone who is holy?” He told me he did but made me promise I would keep it between us. Four years later, I have honored his request.
I drove home from my lesson wondering about ‘pieces of holiness.’ And, through the years when situations arise, this particular conversation comes back to me and always at Yom Kippur when I asked myself in the synagogue if I continue to incorporate “pieces of holiness” in my daily life.
The Rabbi’s comment is so true. Human beings cannot be perfect. If we understand this, we can have a forgiving heart. To be forgiving is being able to say to ourselves, I do forgive but I do not have to forget. Or I do forgive but I will delete this person from my inner circle. And lastly, I will forgive because this person is a family member and I don’t want my anger to infest the family. This is my point: to forgive others is a ‘piece of holiness.’
As I drove home that day, I thought about the phrase and my relationship with holiness:
- Holiness is lighting the Shabbat candles on Friday night, saying a blessing for my family and feeling joy.
- Holiness is when someone upsets me and I think twice before I speak once.
- It is walking on the beach with my husband and our dog, feeling loved and content.
- Holiness is being honest and kind-hearted and trying to be a good person.
- Holiness means being charitable, helping others and feeling good about it.
- It encompasses the love of my family and feeling blessed.
- Holiness is the love of my grandchildren and feeling pride
What Holiness Means To You
If you decide to ask your grands, your relatives or friends “What does holiness mean to you?”‘ at your break the fast celebration or at some other family celebration, I think you will have a very lively conversation.
I believe everyone will leave the table with a thought or a message that never entered their minds pertaining to the word holiness. And that is what I call marvelous, darlings, to leave with a divine message in your head!
At this time of the year, Yom Kippur, if I could grant each of you a wish, it would be to ask yourself if you have acquired ‘pieces of holiness.’ It is a profound statement and a profound word. This is the perfect time of the year to get in touch with your spiritual side. Whether you are of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim faith, work on the Rabbi’s message. Although it simple in words, it is strong in purpose.