He gave the Dvar Torah (attached) on Shabbat Kedoshim when we read the parsha that focuses on Kadosh…. On holiness. Our Jewish idea of holiness is s difficult concept but I think it has something to do with living “complete” lives of purpose and meaning. It means assuring that every human being has a chance for a life of dignity and wholeness!
Eli’s Dvar Torah fills the concept of “Kodesh” with great meaning. And in fact Eli’s life is filled with holiness and if you’re fortunate enough to know him you’re life will share in a bit of his holiness just as his life lends dignity and meaning to our entire Jewish community. No community that fails to enable Eli and thousands more like him to live lives of dignity and meaning can hope to be called a Kehillah Kedosha… A holy community. In that way our community’s work on behalf of people with special abilities redeems us all and allows holiness to touch all our lives.
Eli Wieder, Shabbat Parshat Kedoshim, 5776 – May 14, 2016
Holiness and Wholeness: A Yachad D’var Torah
Parshat Kedoshim…is the place where we learn what WE SHOULD AND SHOULD NOT DO.
Here’s my first example: [It’s a joke!]. Rachel was telling her little sister Sarah all about school. Rachel said, “My teacher shouted at me today for something I did not do.” “ What “did” “dent” you do?” asks Sarah. “My homework!” said Rachel. [ pause for laughter]
Kedoshim teaches: we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ
This Shaarei Shabbat is a special Yachad Shabbat for people with disabilities. Yached means “together”. This Shabbat puts all of us together. Sometimes it is hard to love and get to know people with disabilities. But … make a special effort. You may be surprised.
I have a disability. It is sort of hidden. It is not so obvious on the outside – it is autism. I am high functioning. But autism comes in many forms. Some autistic people speak very well. Some do lots of things. Others cannot speak at all. Let me tell you a story.
There is a story on You Tube about an autistic girl. Her name is Carly. Carly could not speak. It was hard for her to control her movements. People thought she couldn’t understand anything. But her family would not give up on her. Year after year, teachers worked with her. Nothing changed. Then one day, when she was about 12, she sat down in front of a computer. She had never done this before.
Slowly, slowly she typed H…U…..R….T. “Hurt.”
Slowly she typed “H…E…L…P. “Help.”
Nobody could believe it. It took another six months to get her to type again. Finally she realized that the computer could help her. She started typing more and more. One day, she wrote: “I am autistic. But that is not who I am. Take time to get to know me before you judge me.” People were shocked to find out she understood everything. The computer gave her a voice. Look up “Carly” Autistic girl” “A-B-C News” on You Tube. You will be amazed.
What is holiness – kedusha? What does it mean to be holy? What does it mean to be spiritual, to have a relationship with God? Part of the answer is WHO WE ARE. Part is WHAT WE DO.
The Torah teaches that we are all created in the image of God. This means that in some small way we are like God. The Rabbis teach us that just as God is merciful, kind and compassionate, so too we must be merciful, kind and compassionate. The Rabbis teach us that WHAT WE DO HELPS MAKE US WHO WE ARE. So, we follow the mitzvot of the Torah. Some mitzvot make us more ethical. Some make us more spiritual. Some mitzvot we can do only in Israel. We do acts of chesed and tzedakah. All this makes us feel good about ourselves and connected to Hashem.
Parshat Kedoshim teaches: Speak out. Do not be silent.
לֹא תַֽעֲמֹד עַל־דַּם רֵעֶךָ
In San Jose, California, I was in this day program called “Greater Tomorrow.” I did volunteer work three days a week. The other days I went to community college and the library. I was driven to these places by van drivers from Greater Tomorrow. Some of these van drivers found out that I was Jewish. They tried to convince me to believe in Jesus! I told them I did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. I don’t understand everything about the Messiah, but my Judaism tells me that Jesus was not the messiah. We would get into debates. They would quote to me from the prophets. I would tell them: “You go your way, I go mine, and there we differ.” They wanted me to be someone I wasn’t. But I always defended my identity and beliefs.
There is an English word that sounds like HOLINESS. It is WHOLENESS. Wholeness means that a person or thing is whole and not missing anything. For example, think of a big piece of Matzoh. It is whole if it is not broken or missing any pieces. Swiss Cheese has holes in it. If it didn’t have holes, it wouldn’t be Swiss Cheese! So, for Swiss Cheese to be whole, w-h-o-l-e, it need holes, h-o-l-e-s!! People are all different from one another. But each person can be WHOLE if they are true to who they are.
Kedoshim says: Do not hate your brother in your heart.
לֹא־תִשְׂנָא אֶת־אָחִיךָ בִּלְבָבֶךָ
One time this was a hard one for me. When I was in high school, I was made fun of. There was this bully who was MEAN TO ME FOR A YEAR. A year or two after high school, he called me up to apologize! WHEN I HEARD HIS VOICE I GOT ANGRY ALL OVER AGAIN. I couldn’t even LISTEN to him. I told him off and then hung up on him. He never called back. I hardly ever get mad at anyone. But he was an exception.
What is the relationship between WHOLENESS and HOLINESS? Well, to be connected to God requires that we be true to ourselves and follow our heart. However, our heart can tell us to do bad things, like hate. So we have to train our hearts to do holy things, like love and be kind and respectful. It is clear from our parshah that Hashem wants us all to be good to each other and get along.
Yachad means everyone together. A person cannot be holy unless they appreciate who they are and how they are whole. So too, a community cannot be holy unless we all stick together and make each other whole.