Twenty four years ago this Saturday, I stood under a white tent on the grounds of my childhood home, surrounded by my family and friends.
I’d seen an unfurled Torah scroll many times before, but that morning, it looked different. I know why it looked different: it was my responsibility to care for it and connect with it that day.
I began chanting Parshat K’doshim (the Torah portion bestowed to me for my Bat Mitzvah):
“G-d said to Moshe, Speak to the entire community of Israel; tell them, You shall be holy, because I, your G-d, am holy.”
I felt holy in that moment, I remember that very clearly. Not holier than though, or better than anyone else; I just felt holy, whole, connected, protected, embraced, like I was in it, in my body, in this relationship with G-d and unified with everyone who was there.
That set the holy bar for me. Since then, I’ve searched for that feeling again and again, only to be disappointed. It’s arrived unexpectedly in glimpses, flashes, vanishing before I can even absorb it.
I’ve spent the past twenty-four years asking the same questions:
What does it mean to be holy?
Where do I find this holiness?
How do I get that feeling back and hold on to it this time?
I wish I had one specific answer. I don’t. That’s why I’ve been praying a lot. Not in shul (synagogue) or with my siddur (prayer book). I’ve chosen to pray to anything that appears and feels holy to me, which I’m discovering is everything.
I’ve been praying to the grass, to the trees and to the birds.
I’ve been praying to my food.
I’ve been praying to the pain in my student’s shoulder.
I’ve been praying to my immature behavior when I let my anger and impulsive dialogue sprint before my reasoning and patience has a chance to take a step.
I’ve been praying to the handstands the girls do on the carpet in the foyer, and to their squeals when they stick a good one.
I’ve been praying, because, when I do, I feel that feeling, that knowing–that everything is ok even when it seems like it isn’t. When things seem as un-holy as un-holy could be there’s still holiness there.
G-d created us to be us—authentic, not one size fits all.
The holiness arrives when I’m able to accept and recognize that authenticity, that humanness in myself, in others, and find purpose in everything, even in the things that seem senseless and purposeless—there’s a reason they exist, there’s holiness in their existence.
It’s been in front of me this whole time, for the past twenty-four years and the thirteen years before that: everything is holy, if I choose to see it that way.
That’s why I felt it that day when I was put in charge of the Torah; I was honoring all of it, all of us, here, under one tented sky. Through my prayer that day, I recognized and today, I recognize: we’re all holy, including me. ~Rebecca