Kedushah: Rising to Holiness

April 23, 2021

“You shall be Holy.” These words from Gd in Leviticus 19:2 set the stage for the second Torah portion of our double dose this week in Achrei-Mot & Kedoshim. Apropos, the title of this second portion is in fact derived from the same root as “holy” (Kadosh). But what does it mean to be “holy”? This question has been debated and argued for millennia and has, unfortunately, and even ironically, been the cause of many holy wars.

There is a Jewish perspective (which I wholeheartedly embrace) that presents holiness (Kedushah) as the act of separating oneself from the mundane and ordinary acts of daily life, which would certainly include separating oneself from any acts of hatred, criminal, or negative intent.

The idea that simply living one’s life by not doing bad things, in theory, could define a person as being a “good person”. However, the difference between being “good” and “holy” is that not doing bad things isn’t sufficient in trying to better the world with our unique Gd-given talents and strengths. In fact, our Jewish tradition obligates us to “better the world” and try to perfect its imperfections. These are the actions that separate oneself from the ordinary and begin to elevate our actions to levels of holiness and sanctity.

For example, politely passing someone in the street or hallway is “good”. But to smile or even nod one’s head and acknowledge that person’s presence raises the behavior a notch on the ladder of holiness. So too when we light candles on Shabbat. Lighting the candles is certainly an act of holiness, but how much higher do we raise the stakes if we use nicer candles and candlesticks and dress-up for the occasion? Sure, it requires more effort, more time to plan, maybe even more expensive to purchase, yet that is exactly the separation that we understand from this week’s Torah portion.

To be holy requires someone to take action, to consciously decide to not go through life as a passive bystander. Nobel peace prize winner, Elie Wiesel, shared that the opposite of love was not hatred, but indifference. and even went a step further in his acceptance speech by encouraging people to, “Take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Our Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio (HMMSA) educates its visitors to be “upstanders”, not bystanders. This simple nuance differentiates the ability to take action as the first step in climbing the ladder of holiness.

The Jewish Federation of San Antonio has been able to serve our community since 1927 because of the specific actions of those who came before us. JFSA has supported and sustained our San Antonio Jewish community specifically because of the generosity and dedication of community members who chose to take action and step forward.

This week, as we read our foundational text on being a holy nation, let us think about the actions we can each take. How can we shift from simply living our lives to raising our levels of everyday holiness?

The Jewish Federation of San Antonio has many wonderful opportunities for you to take action and get involved through the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Women’s Philanthropy, Jewish Community Relations Council, PJ Library & PJ Our Way, and Young Adult Division. We are also a resource to connect you to local synagogues, beneficiary agencies, and whatever else you may need.  However you decide to take action, the Jewish Federation is…


HERE for you.

HERE for our community.

HERE for our Future.


Shabbat shalom,



November 18 – Knowledge vs. Wisdom

November 11 – Here I Am

November 4 – A Fabric of Ideologies

October 28 – A Trip to Our Partnership Region

October 19 – Resetting the Journey

October 14 – The Chag

October 4 – Adjusting the Sails


September 30 – From Learning to Teaching

September 23 – The Meaning of LIFE & LEGACY

September 16 – An Understanding Heart

September 9 – Equity vs. Equality

September 2 – Justice and Mercy

August 26 – Open! Open Your Hand

August 19 – Making Memories for Generations

August 12 – Kavanah and Kevah

August 5 – An Ethical Will

July 31 –  Communal Responsibility

July 22 – Creating New Beauty

July 15 – Dwell Apart, Together

July 8 – Consequences of Not Listening

July 1 – Two Types of Disagreements

June 24 – Hatikvah

June 17 – Rejoicing in Your Lot

June 10 – Finding Our Peace

June 3 – The Intangible Other Half 

May 27 – Be Part of the Solution

May 20 – Attainable Summits

May 13 – Standing up to Antisemitism

May 6 – Holy Relationships

April 29 – Finding Balance and Direction

April 22 – Happy Earth Day

April 15 – Humor at the Table

April 8 – The Weight of Words

April 1 – Evaluating our Spiritual Health

March 25 – Raise Your Voice

March 18 – Learning from Failing

March 11 – Being Called Out

March 4 -Ukraine Needs Our Help

February 25 – Crisis in Ukraine

February 18 – Counting Half-Shekels

February 11 – Our Jerseys

February 4 – Giving from the Heart 

January 28 – Treating Others With Kindness

January 21 – Feeling Without Experiencing

January 14 – Taking the First Step

January 7 – Seeing in the Dark

December 30 – Change Takes Time

December 23 – To Know Someone

December 17 – Multi-Generational Lessons

December 10 – Choosing Your Attitude

December 3 – Major vs Minor

November 24 – Be an Upstander, Not a Bystander

November 19 – Leaving a Legacy

November 12 – Jacob’s Ladder

November 5 – Relationships Matter

October 29 – Setting a Higher Standard

October 22 – On Being a Jew

October 15 – Blessed vs. Blessing

October 8 – Granting Trust

October 1 – Stronger Together

September 24 – REPRINT of October 9, 2020 

September 17 – Remember the days of old

September 10 – Ten Days of Teshuvah


September 3 – Our Jewish Peoplehood

August 27 – With all thy might

August 20 – Remembering to Forget

August 13 – The Trees of the Field

August 6 – The Mission of Maintaining the Roads

July 30 – Two Ears and One Mouth

July 23 – Antisemitism From All Sides

July 16 – The Greatest Threat

July 9 – Oxymorons and Echo Chambers

July 2 – The Impact of Today’s Decisions

June 25 – Or Lagoyim: A Light Unto the Nations

June 18 – Remembering Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg z”l

June 11 – Equity, Equality, and Investing in Our Future Leaders 

June 4 – An Optimist’s Perspective

May 28 – The Gathering of Feathers

May 21 – We Must be Proactive

May 14 – Here for Israel

May 7 – Behar Behukotai

April 30 – Lessons From My Saba

April 23 – Kedushah: Rising to Holiness

April 16 – Learning Empathy from Leprosy

April 9 – Finding Our Collective Hope

April 2 – Prayer Without Action is Simply Empty Noise

March 26 – Chag Pesach…

March 19 – First They Came For…

March 12 – A Prayer for Healing

March 5 – Combatting Antisemitism

February 26 – A Story Without Supernatural Miracles

February 19 – Federation is Here

February 12 – The Three Definitions of “Shemah”

February 5 – One Nation with One Purpose

January 29 – Prayer, Action, and Perspective

January 22 – Texas Holocaust Remembrance Week

January 15- The Role of Our Tent 

January 8 – Shemot

December 31 – Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazak!

December 25 – A “Community-First” Approach

December 18 – Dreaming in Color: Dreaming & Planning for Our Community

December 11 – The Big Room

December 4 – Wrestling with Our Angels

November 25 – The People Who Give Thanks

November 20 – We are the Toldot

November 13 – Your Personal Life and Legacy

November 6 – The Value of Calm and Reflection

October 30 – We Must Come Together

October 23 – For Hope For Humanity

October 16- The Good and the Very Good 

October 9 – The True Celebration of Simhat Torah

October 2 – The Festival of Ingathering

September 25 – The Two Goats and Yom Kippur

September 18 – The 10 Days of Awe


September 11 – Be Strong and Courageous

September 4 – Acknowledging Good

August 28 – Embracing Multiple Perspectives 

August 21 – Recalibrating in the month of Elul

August 14 – A Blessing and A Curse 

August 7 – A Good Name and A Good Reputation

July 31 – Comfort, Comfort My Nation

July 24 – Words Have Power

July 17 – Our Hope and Promise for the Future

July 10 – It Shall be for You and Your Descendants After You

July 2 – The Indescribable Bond of a Community

June 26- Jewish Wisdom from Our Community and the Torah

June 19- Milk and Honey

June 12- The Next Chapter

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