When our American Friends of Kidum Board of Directors met on April 15th as we began the combined Torah reading known as Acharei Mot – Kedoshim. Combining the two portions’ titles, we learn “After death – holiness.”
In the cycle of our calendar we commemorated Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Memorial Day, last week, we commemorated Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day, yesterday, and today we celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day. First, we grieve the loss of six million of our family, followed by grieving for those who gave their lives for the State of Israel, followed by rejoicing in the miracle that is the State of Israel. From death – to holiness.
In Hebrew, we speak of Kodesh as the opposite of Chol. In English, Kodesh is translated as “Holiness” but in the English language, religious terms are often colored by Christian concepts. For example, the great historian and anthropologist of religion, Mircea Eliade, titled his seminal work “The Sacred and the Profane” translating Kodesh and Chol into English. But in English, “sacred” or “holy” means something that is beyond human reach – and if touched by humans, rendered unholy; whereas “profane” has a negative connotation, often thought of Hillul haShem (desecrating the Holy Name).
But the true translation of Kodesh, means to lift something up, to separate from the norm. Under the chuppah, two stand as one says to the other, “Haray at mikudeshet li…” “Behold, you are made holy for me…” The deepest meaning of “made holy for me” is that I elevate you above all others – no other will I treat the way I treat you…
Chol does not have a negative connotation – it simply means “normal” or “base-line”.
This lesson was taught to me, again, when I had the honor of visiting the schools, residence halls and programs of the Society for the Advancement of Education. The work being done each day elevates the students – lifts them up and allows them to feel special – through excellence in study and excellence in character.
HaAguda L’Kidum HaChinuch, the Society for Advancement of Education, is doing holy work by raising up students above the norm — teaching students that they don’t have to settle for mediocrity, but that you and your life can be elevated through excellence in learning and being. This is holy work.
We should all be proud to be partners in this sacred work though our support. It is truly Avodat Kodesh.
American Friends of Kidum
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