Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim: Holiness on a Mundane St.

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28 Apr 2009
Arts & Media

Holy shall you be for holy am I

I never really knew what it meant. What it meant to be holy. Holy in thought, holy in speech, holy in action.

Of course I had seen prayer shawls in sway and long beards in rhythm; I had heard songs of praise and sung tunes of glory. But until the happenings of which we shall presently partake I never really knew what it meant to be holy.

In this universe there are places that are holy and places that are not. However, some of the most holy – and, unfortunately, least holy – find themselves within ourselves.

It was within one of these places that our story takes place. And where I saw true holiness.

On a mundane city street, where the well-known, well-oiled routine moves along smooth and easy, the hustle-bustle of a humanity rush sets a blurry backdrop in front of which we stand, wonder and live.

Beyond it there is a place not easily entered and less easily exited. A place so raw only the most refined know it and its power. It is a place we all have of course – this holy of all holies – only it is not a crutch with which to get high, but the knowledge that nothing, not even our own selves, can contaminate its purity.

But back to the mundane.

On that city street there are many things going on, for most of which, here isn’t the time or place to expound; however, one such going-on is the justification of our little ramble.

Remember the mundane nature of the street? Well, it was really more than that. The difference between holy and mundane is certainly very simple. Holy, as the Holy Tongue suggests, is Separated, not consumed by the mundane routine of the city street but connected to the Creator of all city streets and therefore beyond their glossy baubles. Mundane, well we know what mundane is…

The going-on on the city street was a child crying. Now, you may think it mundane when a child cries – please don’t feel bad: many on the street did as well – but to Holiness crying children aren’t mundane at all.

Through the entire street-hustle and bustle, an old beggar was sitting in rags and reading from riches, a yellowed book as old and wrinkled as the hands holding it. Watching, for that’s what those that can’t do do, one can see that the beggar was in a place beyond it all, perhaps in those words the beggar had found the portal to the holy of holies.

As soon as the child began crying, while the mundane routine of the city street continued unperturbed, the beggar got up, folded the book around a wrinkled finger holding the page, pulled a candy from the rags, and turned tears into a smile.

Once again you may think this story mundane; however, if you were the child you would probably think it the holiest thing ever to happen.

On the mundane city street, there are holy people, people who know how to enter what is holy and enjoy it, but sometimes have difficulty leaving their definition of holiness to wipe the tears of a child.

True holiness, the kind that is holy for He is holy, beyond the mundane and therefore able to make it holy as well, sees all the books and prayers, all the chants and songs, as means to make us more holy, more sensitive, more in tune not only with the holiness within – for that is easy – but also with the mundane existence around – so that it too can be made holy…

And it shall. Holy shall we be for holy is He.

Mendel Jacobson is a writer, poet and journalist living in Brooklyn. His weekly poetry can be seen at

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.