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"Be holy, for I am holy," G-d asks of us. With these brief words, G-d reminds us that since we have a fragment of the Divine in us, we are holy. And it is our duty, to reveal our core holiness and "be holy," at every moment and in every place.

Rabbi Allouche

Dear Friends,

Their story shocked the world.

In 2015, Mr. Arthur Booth was arrested on burglary charges. During his sentencing, Judge Mindy Glazer, who presided over the court, recognized Mr. Booth, and she asked him if they had gone to school together.

“Did you go to Nautilus, for middle school?” she asked him. Mr. Booth took a closer look at the judge and he broke down in tears, exclaiming, “oh, my goodness! Oh, my goodness!” Judge Glazer then went on to explain to the court how “he was the nicest kid in middle school,” and lamented the choices that led him to her courtroom.

After his release from jail, Judge Glazer shared her powerful advice with him. Looking sharply into his eyes, she instructed him: “You’re going to do something good for somebody else, that’s what you’ve got to do.”

Wise words from a wise woman. Indeed, it is our deeds that make us who we are. And if we can do something good for somebody else, time and time again, we can also become good.

But as I was watching their emotional exchange, I couldn’t help but think: how can two people begin their life-journey so close, yet evolve so far apart? Without a doubt there are many contributing factors to this answer, some of which are beyond our scope of knowledge and understanding. But here’s a thought that crossed my mind:

There are two ways to live life. One way is the way of resignation. The other is a way of determination.

The way of resignation is nothing short of a tragedy. In the holy words of the great Chassidic Master, Rabbi Aharon of Karlin, “the greatest tragedy of life is when a prince begins to believe that he is but a peasant, and he settles for less because he thinks he is less.” On the other hand, the way of determination empowers the person with a resilient drive that never tires until one’s greatness is actualized.

“Be holy, for I am holy,” G-d commands us in this week’s portion. With these brief words, G-d reminds us that since we have a fragment of the Divine in us, we are holy. And it is our duty, to reveal our core holiness and “be holy,” at every moment and in every place.

Perhaps, this was one of the differences between Judge Glazer and Mr. Booth. They may have come from similar milieus, and may have even mingled with the same friends. But the former was a person who never stopped believing in her inner holiness and her duty to act upon it. The latter, for reasons unbeknownst to us, was sadly forced to succumb to villainous forces, which made him neglect his inner holiness, and G-d’s calling to “be holy” and act holy.

Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa, one of the leading rabbis of the 19th century, once addressed his disciples with a surprising yet important request:

“Write two truths on two separate notes,” he told them. Let one note state the verse uttered by our forefather Abraham: ‘I am dust and ashes.’ And let the other note state the teaching of our Sages: ‘For my sake, the world was created.’

Now place these two notes in your pockets. If your achievements engender arrogance, take out the first note and remember that you are but ‘dust and ashes.’ But if you are feeling despondent and dejected, take out the note that states that ‘the world was created for you.'”

Indeed, at times, when we are overcome with feelings of despondency and resignation, we ought to remember that the world was created for us, and for our holiness.

And it is awaiting us, now and at every instant, to be and act holy, each in our own way, each with our own vocation.