What an extraordinary week it was for all of us. Ten different religious institutions joining together to celebrate the values that we cherish and hold in common. A week-long gathering of men, women and children willing to share their most cherished hopes and prayers, wrestle together over what each of us means by respect and integrity, how each of us can better live our lives consistent with the values of loving our neighbors, doing good works, showing kindness to each other, demonstrating the courage of our convictions, and allowing the beautiful harmony of our sacred music to lift our souls to the heavens.
We all felt blessed to be a part of this remarkable community and grateful for this moment of sacred time which we created together. It represented the very best that our religious traditions have to offer, the highest values and loftiest ideals of what is good and right, meaningful and significant, loving and sacred in our lives.
We can all be proud of the unique celebration we shared, for we reminded each other that the most important things in life aren’t things at all – they are the relationships we cherish, the lives we touch, the inspiration we can bring to each other if we are open to hearing the honesty and integrity of each other’s souls.
Sometimes I feel like we human beings are messengers who have forgotten the message. But not this week. This week the important messages of our traditions were all around us on every street and every lawn – shared with reverence and respect in every church and synagogue with the most marvelous mixture of people and faiths I have ever witnessed. Ever since my last book, Children of Character was published, I have led numerous parenting workshops on character and values. At each workshop I tell the parents that if I were only able to convey one message to them it would be this: “Be the kind of adults you want your children to grow up to become.” That is what every single adult did this week who participated in our community of faith’s celebration of shared values. They were outstanding role models for both adults and children of the best that each of us can be.
In this week’s Torah portion, God instructs the Children of Israel, “You shall faithfully observe My commandments – I am Adonai. You shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified in the midst of the Israelite people – I Adonai who sanctify you, I who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God, I am Adonai.” Leviticus 22:31-33.
What the rabbis of the Talmud did with this passage is remarkable. They infer from the words, “..I may be sanctified in the midst of the Israelite people,” that it takes a Minyan (the symbolic number representing “community”) for the prayer known as the kedusha to be recited. Kedusha means “holiness,” or “sanctification.” The rabbis interpreted our portion to be a lesson in the importance of community in bringing holiness into the world. They taught that no individual can be concerned exclusively with his or her own holiness, but that what God demands of us is to join together in community in order to increase holiness in the world.
That was the real lesson of this past “Week of Shared Values” as well. In community we multiply holiness. In community we transcend the “me” and embrace the “we.” IN community we discover kedusha – what it means to bring a sense of the sacred into the lives of others through what we say, what we do, and who we are.
We are reminded by the Torah this week that holiness is our life mission. Adding to the holiness of the world is our sacred task. And we need each other to suceed.