After Death, Holy

We have the combination of two Torah portions this week, and when you put their names together, you get something kind of haunting. The first is Acharei Mot (after death), and the second is Kedoshim (holy). After death, holy.

Because Gesher is in the process of several significant transitions, I think about these words through that lens. It strikes me that there is always a potential for spiritual growth if you approach a transition in that mindset. Transitions are not generally smooth – far more often they are not pretty things, but growth requires change. Though it may seem trite to say, it is worth remembering that death is part of what gives meaning to life, and that there is indeed an aspect of holiness inherent in life because death exists.

After death, holy. The opportunity we have in transitions is to create, and since that is one of the unique ways in which we can emulate G-d, that is holy. Many of us (certainly including me) have tendencies that lead us to protect ourselves from the pain of transition. If we can recognize those tendencies, quiet them, and engage fully in the challenges inherent in growth, we can guide and create, rather than react and retract…and that’s holy.

From a parenting and educational perspective, we always have to remember that change and transition are inherent in development. It’s our job to help our children understand the opportunities change presents, and celebrate the holiness of those changes.

It is notable that the phrase V’ahavta L’re’echa Kamocha (and you shall love your neighbor as yourself) is included in a list of ways in which the Israelites are instructed to make themselves Kadosh (holy). This is the source of the so called “Golden Rule” of Judeo-Christian ethics, and the phrase which Hillel famously gave as an answer to a seeker who was asking to understand Torah “on one leg”. He said that this is the central tenet of the Torah, and that all the rest is commentary.

One thing we can take from this is that just it is our job to make ourselves open (and therefore vulnerable) during challenging periods of growth and transition, the key to moving through with strength lies in treating others empathetically, and expecting them to do the same for you.

This week I encourage you to talk with your family about transitions that were challenging for you, and what you learned from those periods of change. Ask your children to talk about what it feels like for them to move through changes – children have to do this far more often then adults, typically without having much say in the matter.

Shabbat Shalom,