Karen Blumberg - Holiness Talk - High Holy Days 5778

Karen Blumberg

When Rabbi Mosbacher asked me to speak to the Congregation today about what holiness means to me, I felt both honored and somewhat hesitant. I wondered “why did the Rabbi asked me? What do I really know about holiness in
my life?” I think his purpose in asking the 4 of us to speak, must be to fulfill the goal that our congregation be one of meaning, purpose and connection. And so despite my apprehension, I knew that I had to literally step up to the bimah and honor my commitment to Judaism and to our congregation.

I have asked myself many questions in the last few weeks and searched for answers. The following words by Rabbi Alan Lurie resonated deeply with me and gave me a framework to think about what holiness means to me. He writes:

“A mitzvah is literally a commandment - it is something we must do in accordance
with Jewish understanding of the Bible… mitzvot are predominantly activities that
we do in order to open our hearts to others and to improve the world… such as
telling the truth, honoring our families and communities, being faithful to our
commitments, being kind to animals, improving our minds, sharing our
knowledge, healing the sick…” He continues, “These physical acts, done in our
everyday environments, are how we bring holiness to the world and how we
make our lives a blessing.” 

From a Jewish perspective, Rabbi Lurie then concludes that “holiness is something than can - and must - occur at every moment of our lives.”

I believe that by trying to do what is right, striving to be the best person that I can be and actively acknowledging the depth of beauty around me, I can connect to the God that lives in me and everyone of us. I believe that I have experienced holiness when I am surrounded by the beauty of nature, but it is in my personal relationships that I feel it the deepest.

For example, I love being a mother. The relationships that I have with my children, Jack and Rebecca, have become richer and deeper over time. I’ve worked hard to fulfill my commitment to be a mom that my children can rely on, talk to and be honest with. My son Jack was and is a book worm. As he grew up we read his favorite books every night over and over again. I remember one night long ago when Jack and I were lying on my bed while I read to him. When I finished, we put our faces next to each other and looked into each others eyes until he fell asleep. It felt like we were staring into each others souls. It was one of the HOLIEST moments in my life.

Here’s another example of how I’ve experienced holiness. I am lucky to have a job working with young children and their families. In our classroom, we work to help each child understand what it means to be part of a community by listening to one another, waiting for our turn, helping to clean up, telling our stories, and helping our friends. It is what everyone needs as the foundation for being part of any community. Over the school year, our little class room becomes a holy community that nurtures and supports our children.

Here is one more moment. I adored my Grandma Helen. When I was young, I started to fly to Florida by myself to visit her every winter and we would sit on her terrace for hours talking, reminiscing and laughing. At the end of her life at 99 years old, I took my last flight to visit her to say goodbye. She had been in and out of consciousness in the hospital. But when I came in and sat on her bed, she opened her eyes to look at me. Though she didn't talk, she communicated everything in her gaze and we said goodbye to each other. We had truly known and loved each other for 50 years and I felt HOLINESS in our last moments together.

So thank you, Rabbi Mosbacher for giving me an opportunity to step away from my every day life, to reflect and to remember. Rabbi Isaac Bamberger said,
“The idea of holiness implies that what we make of our lives matters not only to us as individuals, not only to society but to the entire cosmos. A divine purpose runs through all existence.”

G’mar hatimah tovah. May you be Sealed in the Book of Life and may you experience the holy moments in your lives. They are surely there for each of us, if we take time to notice and to feel them.