Torah Tidbits


Standing on Holy Ground
Shabbat Parashat Shemot
December 20, 2013 – 18 Tevet 5774

Standing on Holy Ground

In this week’s Torah portion, we learn that Moses himself did not realize that he was standing on holy ground.   He had to be told by God that he was!   Is it any wonder that we, too, might, at times, be unaware that we are standing on holy ground?!

As Jews, we are very familiar with the concept of holiness in time.  We sanctify the Sabbath and we mark our holidays with rituals and observances.  This reminds us that we have a choice.  We can simply let the days of our lives continue, undistinguished, one from the other.   Or, we can choose to “sanctify time” through the observance of Shabbat and holidays.  In doing so, we “break” the relentless flow of time by connecting specific days of our lives with holiness, both as a community, and as individuals.

But, what would give us the feeling that a specific place is holy?  What would alert us to the fact that we are standing on holy ground?

If we were struck by the realization of the immanent presence of God at a particular place, then we might well ascribe a sense of holiness to that place. But, more often than not, we do not have that level of experience of the Divine in our lives.  Even Moses failed to realize it, when he stood on holy ground, looking at the burning bush.  He needed God to point out to him that he was, indeed, standing on sacred ground!

This week as I saw our volunteers and staff gearing up for Help Week at Rodef Sholom Temple, bringing in the food we needed from the shops, cooking, organizing and setting up, I was struck by the fact that Rodef Sholom Temple was holy ground.   Thanks to the holy endeavor we have undertaken of fulfilling the mitzvah of feeding those in need, we are creating a holy space.  Together, we will be standing on holy ground.  A place becomes holy when we experience the closeness of God in that place, or more often, when it is used for a holy purpose, for the fulfillment of a mitzvah.

One of God’s names in Hebrew is: “Makom.”  Translated from the Hebrew, this appellation for God means: “Place” or “Space.”  When we bring a sense of holiness into a particular place by our actions, we unite with holiness in time with holiness in space.  The result is awesome!

I hope you will join with us this Friday night and this Shabbat, as we pray together, and this coming week, as we do our part in feeding and providing shelter to those among us who are in need.  And may we be rewarded with a feeling that we truly are “standing on holy ground.”

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror