Dear Beit Sefer Families,
What does it mean for something to be sacred? How do we divide the everyday from the sacred? How do we separate what feels dirty, low, and degrading from ourselves and create something sacred, uplifting, higher than ourselves?
I recently finished Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind. He writes how we develop our moral matrices based on certain foundations, among which is sanctity. Reading his section on this topic gave me new insight into the Torah and portions like the one we read this week in Parshat Naso that have rituals and laws of purity, especially those that contradict my own moral compass. (In this week’s portion there is a section on the trial and punishment for a woman accused of adultery that can be hard to grapple with from a modern day perspective (Numbers 6:5-31). Instead of reeling at the suggestion that a woman be tested and punished by the trial of drinking a potion made of written curses, and the man be guilt free, I am looking at this section as an attempt to deal with a major transgression and to restore a sense of sanctity to the family and the community. I may not relate to how the people of that time would have sought to restore the sense of sanctity, but I can find something inspiring in the concept of living a life that attempts to move towards the sacred and way from the degrading. Many of us in today’s modern world struggle with the idea of holiness and the sacred. But, don’t we all have moments we hold sacred even if they don’t all originate from the Torah, God or someone else’s authority? Personally, I find that I like to find a way of releasing the sense of “yuck” that comes from certain experiences in life. I find that there are objects, moments in time, places, memories that feel sacred to me. What does sanctity or holiness mean to you?