“Parsha and Purpose” – Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5780
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha
“Finding Holiness in a Jerusalem Supermarket”
Finding Holiness in a Jerusalem Supermarket
The other day, in a supermarket in Jerusalem, a woman with a full cart of groceries said to the cashier: “Please, when you get up to 600 shekels, let me know.”
And as they got close to 590 shekels, the cashier said, “We’re almost there.” She looks at what has already been paid for; she sees that the juice and the cookies went through, but that the eggs and the diapers are still in the cart. She tells the cashier that she only has 600 shekels for groceries so please, can he return the juice and the cookies, because the things still to come are more important.
Immediately, the cashier – who also makes just minimum wage – says, “You know, we have somebody who wants to help people having trouble at this time to buy groceries.”
The woman refuses, but he doesn’t listen; he continues to scan all of her groceries, and swipes her credit card for just 600 shekel. After she leaves the store, he takes out his own credit card, and swipes it for the rest. The cashier who makes minimum wage.
He didn’t tell this story to anyone, except his girlfriend, but somebody who actually saw it happen posted to Facebook and it quickly spread, at least throughout Israel.
Kedoshim tihiyu. The responsibility for us to be holy. We have 613 commandments, but sometimes, there’s something that may not be in a particular commandment that says, “We have to be holy. We have to help others.”
Kedoshim is the name of the second Torah portion that we read this week and it focuses on our responsibilities to be kadosh – to be holy – and to help other people, both Jews and non-Jews.
The first portion we read this week is Acharei Mot, which focuses on our relationship to God.
Two Torah portions that really focus on different things. But they are put together is to remind us of the two complementary ways in which we engage in our Judaism.
We are Jews who are supposed to engage in a relationship with God – that is Parshat Acharei Mot. But a relationship with God is only substantial when we are kedoshim – when we engage with others.
It is why the Gemara tells us that someone who wants to be pious should study the laws of Nezikin, the laws that teach us how to engage with others.
As we’re going through this challenging time, let us find ways to engage with each other. Even though there is social distancing, let us find ways to come together.
Because we are kedoshim, we are holy, and that is our responsibility.