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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash


Updated: Apr 21, 2021

One cannot read Parshat Kedoshim without being in awe of the scope of laws that govern our moral lives. We are asked to be fair, to be kind, to be holy.

I've always wondered what holiness is and I am sure that all of you have wondered the same.

This poem is a small attempt to think about the question of holiness and where we may find it.


When I was young

or maybe not so young,


on a cloudy day I would look up at the sky and see the sun‘s rays spreading in an arc

through the clouds. Her light might

grace a tree or perhaps

a rippling river and bathe them in diamonds.

I thought I was peeking at God. That I, just a mortal,

made in the image of the Divine, was allowed a glimpse of holiness for just a moment or two.

God's presence delivered to earth in an ordinary moment, on the wings

of the sun’s rays. I still wonder

about those rays. When the sky opens her arms and graces us with bursts of light

shining through the clouds. Is this holiness?

Perhaps. Or perhaps those rays,

diamonds skipping on the water

are not visions of God,

not holy

but are elusive,

a beautiful mirage. We can see the rays, but not touch them. They shine,

and they sparkle,

but they are not ours. They belong only to the air.

Instead, if you wish to find holiness, look hard

at someone’s hands. Rays of the sun

alight upon them when they build, when they unite, when they caress,

when they guide,

when they open

to welcome the stranger.

Those hands are

the golden sunbeams

that spread through the trees When hands reach out

it is like the sky opening. When hands caress,

it is like the sun

painting the earth. We need not search

the sky for holiness,

Holiness is

the work of our hands,

the good work of our hands.

If you wish to find holiness look down at someone's feet. Feet

walk the walk of holiness.

They are not ephemeral. They do not shine down

from the sky.

They are not

radiant and light,

but are solid and true. They live on the earth. They walk to pursue good. They walk to unite and for justice. They move forward They work,

feet on the ground.

They are active,

they are real.

Feet embody holiness.

Hands embody holiness. They are the rays of the sunshine

that dance between the trees.

They are the beams of light

that grace the earth.

They go forward

in pursuit of justice.


we need not search for

it in the sky

or in the water

that sparkles as diamonds.

It is there in you,

in your hands

and in your feet.


the power is us.

Vayikra 19:1-2 (from Sefaria)

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־כָּל־עֲדַ֧ת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל וְאָמַרְתָּ֥ אֲלֵהֶ֖ם קְדֹשִׁ֣ים תִּהְי֑וּ כִּ֣י קָד֔וֹשׁ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃ Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy.

Vayikra 19: 16-18 Do not deal basely with your countrymen. Do not profit by the blood of your fellow: I am the LORD.

לֹֽא־תִשְׂנָ֥א אֶת־אָחִ֖יךָ בִּלְבָבֶ֑ךָ הוֹכֵ֤חַ תּוֹכִ֙יחַ֙ אֶת־עֲמִיתֶ֔ךָ וְלֹא־תִשָּׂ֥א עָלָ֖יו חֵֽטְא׃ You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him.

לֹֽא־תִקֹּ֤ם וְלֹֽא־תִטֹּר֙ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י עַמֶּ֔ךָ וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵעֲךָ֖ כָּמ֑וֹךָ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֽה׃ You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the LORD.

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