Discover more from Into The Torah-verse!
Look In, Not Out
Recently I became certified as a CrossFit coach. In addition to on the floor coaching, I also am helping with our onboarding program where I help people understand the basic movement patterns and routines of a class. As they integrate into the main classes, one of the things I am always struck by is how much new members pay attention, almost obsessively, to what others are doing. It’s a new environment for most so I understand the desire to watch others but I urge them to pay attention to themselves, their breathing, and how their body feels. That will be a whole lot more helpful than trying to mimic someone else.
We as human beings are hardwired to do this. In learning settings or in social settings, we want to see what others are doing because often it looks “better” than how we’re doing it. I would also venture to say that this happens in spiritual settings as well. That person is praying a lot harder than I am or they seem to know what they’re doing more than I do are just some of the internal conversations we might have. It’s hard to trust our own skills, instincts, or natural tendencies in so many different environments.
We are given this reminder at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion as well. Parshat Kedoshim begins with the Israelites being told:
1“to be holy because I, your God, am holy.”
At first glance, this seems like a fairly simple commandment. Strive to do good because God does good things.
If we think about it though, there’s a potential pitfall. Namely, if we’re supposed to aspire in our holiness to the level of holiness that God has, we find ourselves in an impossible situation that can never be resolved. We can never reach God level holiness. It’s the ultimate look around and not measure up moment. We seemed to be set up for failure in a way that would seem to be at odds with what the Torah desires of us.
A beautiful solution to this question comes from the Shem Mishmuel, Rabbi Shmuel Borenztein, the 2nd Rebbe of the Sochatchov Chasidic dynasty. He says:
This is extraordinary: even though every person is what they are, they can still be holy. And it seems that the explanation is that according to what The Holy One commands each person, that person needs to separate and comprehend their standing…for each person it will look like a different mitzvah, as there is a different holiness, as each person needs to make holy their tendencies that their nature gives them.2
Not only should you not worry about not reaching God’s holiness, he argues, don’t even worry about what someone else is doing in their service. Every person has been gifted with a unique ability to be a Jewish person. That ability is theirs alone.
I try to remind my new students at the gym about this albeit not with religious language. Yet, I believe that is a lesson worth integrating into our lives no matter where we are. How many times do our eyes wander in a given setting trying to be like someone else? All the while, we have the answer right inside of us where it has been all along. We, created in the image of God, don’t need to create a poor facsimile of God’s holiness because our own is great enough.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Weekend