The Torah portion, or parasha, is Beha’alotcha and is found in Numbers 8:1-12:16. In the passage we see a number of events about holiness. God tells Moses to instruct Aaron about lighting the menorah in the Tabernacle. He then tells Moses how he is to purify the Levites and consecrate them to serve in the sanctuary. At the beginning of the second year following the Exodus, God tells Moses that the Israelites are to offer the Passover sacrifice on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight. However, hearing this, some men who had contracted ritual impurity through contact with a corpse and could therefore not offer the sacrifice approach Moses and Aaron and ask if there is a way they, too, could participate. Moses brings their question to God, who says that anyone who is prevented from offering the sacrifice at its proper time for reasons of impurity or distance may do so one month later. Also, during the Israelite’s travel, God showed his holiness by covering the Tabernacle with a cloud by day that appeared as a fire at night. This cloud would lift up to signal the Israelites to break camp and travel and rest over the Tabernacle when it was time to make camp, whether for a few days or a year. God also instructs Moses to have two silver trumpets made. These would be used to send messages to the Israelites, calling them to assemble or to march. In the future, once the Israelites were settled in their land, the trumpets were to be sounded during war and festivals.
Holiness is an interesting thing. People and objects are not in themselves holy or unholy. Candlesticks, clouds, fire, trumpets and even people are all ordinary. What makes something holy is when it is set apart for a purpose that elevates us and others. When we say a b’racha – or blessing – over food, we move from unconscious eating to recognizing God’s creation of this food for an elevated purpose: the ability to give us sustenance. When we perform a mitzvah for others, an ordinary deed becomes directed to a purpose that elevates someone else’s life. Yet it is not only the objects or people we encounter that become imbued with holiness. When we see the holiness and purpose of the ordinary around us-both things and people–that perception also elevates us. My mom has a saying: “Happiness is like a perfume. We cannot give some to others without getting some on ourselves”. In the same way, when we touch others with holiness, we also experience holiness. This week, may we see the holiness in the ordinary.