A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter
Leviticus 19 opens with the words: “And God spoke to Moses saying. Speak to the entire assembly of the children of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I, HaShem, your God, am holy.’”
Let’s not get into what exactly we are supposed to do to be holy. Today, I’d like to contemplate that this commandment was given with all of us standing together; men, women, children. Often, when we think of holy people, we imagine someone living alone on a mountaintop with hours to meditate and learn and grow. Or maybe we’re more realistic, but we still think of a holy person as a person who has hours of solitude to learn and pray while sitting in his or her quiet book-lined study.
The Alshich, a transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom, writes that the Torah is not asking us to isolate or live alone and separate from each other so we can work on being holy and fully self-developed people. Rather, he says, that we specifically should be amongst other human beings, in the assembly or congregation as the verses above teach. In order to achieve holiness we have to be with each other.
I find this very relevant in my life as a mother. Firstly, it is tempting to look back and perhaps think how much more holy I was before I had children. I prayed much more, I never lost my patience, I learned Torah more, I was more active in charity organizations… But that is incorrect. Becoming holy happens amongst other people and I am much more deeply entrenched with other people surrounded by my husband and children than I was alone.
God wants me to be holy as I live closely together with my family.
And yes, that means that I won’t have as much time to devote to prayer, to learning, to charity organizations. And yes, it even means I won’t have as much time to devote to my personal growth and development, but that’s the point. Holiness doesn’t really come from isolation. Holiness is something I can develop and attain as I work on myself amongst my family and amongst the other people in my life. Developing good character traits is much easier before you live with others! But true good character traits come when we live with others and still work on becoming better, more sensitive, caring, and giving people.
By being mothers, having little time for ourselves, we may incorrectly think we’re not attaining holiness. In reality, the opposite is true. By working on self-development even as we’re distracted and tired, by giving, by stretching ourselves to greater heights of patience, self-control, and love, we’re attaining holiness the way we’re meant to, not in isolation but among the entire assembly of men, women and children.