23/24 April 2021, 11/12 Iyar 5781

Zoe writes:

This week’s portion is about Holiness. Kadosh (holy) also has a sense of separation – the normal from the special, the clean from the unclean, the holy from the profane.

This week’s news is full not of Covid-19 but of copycat caterpillars (I did ponder a copycat-erpillars pun there…) and elite football groups.

Through the lens of holiness, Marks and Spencer believe their Colin the caterpillar cakes are Holy because they stand alone (not be copied by Aldi). Meanwhile, fans believe football is Holy because it stands together.

Certainly this lockdown has pushed us to learn and enjoy the moments we experience alone, while appreciating the times of communal holiness we wish we could reinstate.

I noted the prayer by Rabbi Howard Cooper included in the most recent Reform siddur (Forms of Prayer, 2008) for those lighting Shabbat candles alone:

Two candles, one person
I welcome this Shabbat alone
and join myself to the community of Israel
One candle for me
One candle for my people
Together and alone
we share our heritage
our future
our yearning
for the peace of Shabbat.

For me, this prayer could have been written specifically for Covid life – holding the personal and communal experiences, normally together, in parallel at a distance.

Over these 15 months we’ve learnt how technology can help us bridge the distance, whether our incredible Shabbat services, morning meditation, or one-off events.

Next Wednesday is – for me – the biggest of the latter. The London Citizens Mayoral Assembly. I have been involved in the planning from the start – for an event that was intended for May 2020 and was, like so much, postponed until now.

We aim to have 6000 people on that call. And I hope one of those 6000 is you.

Maybe holiness is one person, in one room, logging on to a Mayoral Assembly – when they could do anything else – knowing they are part of something so huge, making such an enormous difference, by standing up and being there.

And maybe holiness is knowing that we will each be doing that, together.

Shabbat shalom,