Holy Relationships

May 6, 2022

When writing the Shalom Y’all column last year on this week’s Torah portion, Kedoshim, I shared insight into the literal meaning of the title word, “to be holy” and how we each have the opportunity to raise our everyday actions to levels of great holiness and sanctity.

This year I want to draw our attention to a seemingly odd association between the directive to “revere [one’s] mother and father” and the requirement to “keep [Gd’s] sabbaths.” (Leviticus 19:3)

At first, glance these two commandments seem to have no natural association. Revering and honoring one’s parents reference person-to-person interactions that have no time-bound responsibilities. We are expected to fulfill this obligation every day all day. This commandment is about our human relationships and recognizing the efforts it took and continues to take, to raise children in an ever-changing world.

Alternatively, keeping the Shabbat is a weekly requirement between person and place, and has everything to do with the 39 actions associated with building the ancient Tabernacle in the desert after our ancestors received the 10 Commandments.

So why does Gd connect these two obligations together in one verse capped with the affirmation “I Hashem am your Gd”?

Rabbi Shmuel Ben Meir, posthumously honored with the name Rashbam, and grandson to the great biblical commentator Rashi, reminds us that just like the 10 Commandments, where we are told to “Remember the Shabbat” (#4) we are then commanded to “Honor [our] father and mother” (#5) immediately afterward.

Although these commandments may seem disconnected and unrelated, Rashbam explains that they are repeatedly kept together because honoring one’s parents is only surpassed by honoring Gd as the creator of all things. The lesson to be learned is clear, the act of creation is Gdly and therefore holy and sanctified as is the name of this week’s Torah portion.

Conversely, however, it would not be hard to consequently draw the conclusion that destruction is obviously unholy and immoral. In fact, the next commandment (#6) identifies the most destructive behavior possible, “You shall not murder.”

But these are the extreme examples that bookend our daily behaviors and interactions with one another. We do not revere every neighbor with whom we positively associate and we certainly do not take the life of those we dislike. So how do we live a life of holiness in our daily and often mundane interactions with one another?

Stephen Covey, in his best-selling book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” describes every relationship as an emotional bank account. When someone has positive interactions with others, credits are added to their “account.” Similarly, if a negative interaction occurs, an emotional withdrawal is made from the account. Our responsibility is to continuously keep adding credits by having positive interactions so that on the off chance that a withdrawal occurs that we do not overdraw the account. Because when that happens the trust is lost, and the account is closed.

Like this week’s parashah where Kedoshim reminds us that being holy is about building and maintaining our relationships, so too do we at the Jewish Federation believe passionately that our purpose is to connect with members of the Jewish community to build, maintain, and strengthen the Jewish community by investing in each and every relationship.

This week alone (in chronological order) …

  • The Jewish Federation partnered with the Chabad Center for Jewish Life & Learning for a community kiddush where Jewish Federation board members and congregants met one another to build awareness, understanding, and learn about the needs across our community.
  • The PJ Library program participated in the JCC’s Family Fun Day at the J.
  • The Jewish Federation sponsored a delegation of young Jewish professionals from Temple Beth El, Congregation Rodfei Sholom, and JFSA, to attend JPro22, a professional development conference in Cleveland, to build relationships across the San Antonio professional Jewish community.
  • The Holocaust Memorial Museum held its inaugural Heroes for Humanity event, where over twenty-five local businesses and foundations were recognized and honored for investing in the museum and its educational mission.
  • The Jewish Federation partnered with Rodfei Sholom to bring the community this year’s Yom Hazikaron & Yom Ha’Atzmaut Stronger Together celebration.

Building relationships is holy work and it starts with a smile, a hello, and getting to know one another. This week let’s all take the time to deposit some emotional credits into the relationships we have so that we can continue to build our San Antonio Jewish community and be…


Shabbat shalom,