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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Parshas Kedoshim–Sometimes It’s Just a Hot Cup of Coffee

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By: Chaya Sora Jungreis-Gertzulin

Parshas Kedoshim. “Kedoshim te’hiyu, You shall be holy…” (Vayikra 19:2) To live a life of sanctity. The mission statement of our nation. A message so important, so vital, that HaShem tells Moshe to gather “Kol adas B’nei Yisroel, the entire nation”. A message so integral to us that Rashi relates a Midrash, “Sheh’rov gufei Torah te’luyin bah, That the majority of the essential of the Torah depends on it.”

We may think that kedoshim, living an elevated life is reserved for the lofty amongst us, those with holy souls. But the pasuk tells us otherwise. Kol adas. All of Yisroel. Men and women. Young and old. Strong and weak. Scholarly and simple. Rich and poor. Each one of us has not only an obligation, but the wherewithal to be a kodosh. Each one of us, in our way, can make the world a better place.

How is it possible, one may ask. HaShem created us with a neshama, as we say every day in davening, “Elokai, neshama sheh’nosatah be, tehorah he, HaShem, the soul You gave me is pure…” With a pure soul, one can accomplish so much. How blessed we are that HaShem implants within us the necessary tools to be a kodosh.

Kol adas – everyone. Even the children.

A while ago, a true life story was submitted to Mishpacha magazine by Esther Malka Goldschmidt. Esther Malka was working as a receptionist in a Lakewood office. A very ordinary job, bordering on boring. Oftentimes, she would be looking for “something” to happen. And then, one day it did. A middle-aged, obviously non-Jewish couple, came in to have a meeting with her boss. The wait was long and the woman approached Esther Malka’s desk to make conversation.

“Do you live around here?” the woman asked. “I used to live on Vine Street.” Esther Malka knew Vine Street well. It was the block of the school she attended, Bais Kaila.

The woman proceeded to tell of how she would sit on her porch, and watch the girls going to school in their pleated skirts and light blue shirts. She recalled one girl in particular. A girl who always waved and smiled to her. A girl who even stopped to wish her a good day and chat with her. The girl’s name was Kaila. “Kaila from the Kaila school”, she said.

It was now time for the couple to go in, but not before the woman added, “Kaila was so nice, that when I had a little girl, I named her Kaila.”

A wave. A smile. A good word. Little things that we can all do. Little things that make a big difference. A Kiddush HaShem.

We may not realize it, but a Kiddush HaShem is not just for others. It is also for ourselves. Every good act we do, every mitzva we keep, has an impact on our neshama. It becomes part of our very being. We become better people as a result. We become kinder and more considerate. We learn compassion, love and understanding. We acquire the virtues of patience and tolerance. One who lives his life striving to be a kodosh, comes out a winner, a hero. It is self-improvement at the highest level.

Kedoshim te’hiyu. I think of my father zt”l, who filled his life with quiet acts of chesed. Many of them unknown to our family, only to be found out during the shiva.

At one point, a woman walked in wearing a nurse’s uniform. My sister and I looked at each other, we didn’t recognize her as one of my father’s nurses from the hospital. We looked at our mother. She didn’t seem to know her either.

“Let me introduce myself”, our mystery visitor began. “I am a baby nurse who works for many families in the community. I get recommendations by word of mouth. I overheard the woman I am currently working by tell her husband that the Rabbi passed. As soon as I heard that it was Rabbi Jungreis, I asked if I could take some time off to make a condolence call. I just wanted to share a personal story with the family.”

Intrigued, we were all ears. The baby nurse continued. “Very often, I am taking care of a baby at a bris. After the ceremony, I would go into a private room to care for the baby, while the family would be greeting their guests. At times, it seemed like an afterthought when someone brought me a cup of coffee or a plate of food. By then, everything was cold. But not so when the bris was in Rabbi Jungreis’ shul, Ohr Torah. Soon after the bris, the Rabbi would bring me a steaming hot cup of coffee and a plate laden with goodies. The Rabbi would tell me ‘You are such a special lady — you have a holy job, you are taking care of a Jewish baby, a Jewish soul.’ It wasn’t just the plate of food. It was the kind, encouraging words, the good wishes, the smile of appreciation, the words of gratitude.”

We are now in the midst of Sefira, counting from Pesach to Shavuos, in anticipation of receiving the Torah. It is during this time period that we also mourn the loss of so many of Rabbi Akiva’s students, due to a devastating plague. A plague caused by their lacking respect and love for one another. The plague came to an end on Lag B’Omer, the thirty-third day of counting the Omer. Maharal comments that until Lag B’Omer there are thirty-two days, the gematria of lev, heart. The lesson of Sefira. To love one another. To have heart. To respect each other, as in the word kavod, honor, which also has a gematria of thirty-two.

In this week’s parsha, we are commanded “v’ahavta le’rea’acha kamocha, You shall love your fellow as yourself.” (Vayikra 19:18). To be a kodosh.

Sometimes, all it takes is a hot drink and a kind word.

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov!

Chaya Sora

Chaya Sora can be reached at [email protected]

This article was written L’zecher Nishmas/In Memory Of HaRav Meshulem ben HaRav Osher Anshil HaLevi, zt”l and Rebbetzin Esther bas HaRav Avraham HaLevi, zt”l

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