being, and becoming, holy


This week’s Torah portion is Kiddoshim, which begins at Leviticus 19:1. The first two verses of the portion are in the photograph above and, in them, we are commanded to be holy because G-d is holy. The pronunciation of the Hebrew words for “be holy” is “kiddoshim tihiyu,” with kiddoshim being the plural form of kadosh, which means holy.

Interestingly, the Hebrew verb tihiyu can have two meanings. First, it can be a command in the present tense, telling us to “be holy right now!” Second, it can be future tense, telling us that we “shall be” holy. Thus, our Torah portion simultaneously tells us to “be” and “become” holy.

Also this week, coincidentally (Baruch Hashem!), I happened to purchase and read Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World (Crossroad Publishing 1992), by Henri J.M. Nouwen (1932-1996), who was a Catholic priest. The book is written as a letter, because a secular Jewish friend of Nouwen asked Nouwen to explain what he believes it means to live a spiritual life.

Nouwen writes that living a spiritual life entails both:
(1) “Being the Beloved,” and
(2) “Becoming the Beloved.”

To “be” the Beloved, Nouwen explains, is to have heard the still, soft voice whispering from within us that we are loved, that we are G-d’s own, that wherever we go and whatever we face, G-d will be there with us.  It is, in essence, to accept one’s place as a child of G-d.

To Nouwen, “becoming the Beloved” means:

letting the truth of our Belovedness become enfleshed in everything we think, say, or do. . . . What is required is to become the Beloved in the commonplaces of my daily existence and, bit by bit, to close the gap that exists between what I know myself to be and the countless specific realities of everyday life. Becoming the Beloved is pulling the truth revealed to me from above down into the ordinariness of what I am, in fact, thinking of, talking about, and doing from hour to hour.

Life of the Beloved at 45-46. 

I think Nouwen’s description provides a rather nice conceptualization of what this week’s Torah portion might mean when it tells us both to be and to become holy.  Nouwen’s book includes a few more short chapters about practical ways to develop and act on one’s Belovedness, and I recommend it for those who may be interested.  🙂

May the peace of this Shabbat provide moments of quiet in which each and every human might hear the still, small voice calling us to claim our birthright as Beloved children of the One, infinite and eternal, G-d…


4 thoughts on “being, and becoming, holy

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