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Redefining Holiness: Available to Receive, Available to Serve

When I watch a tennis match, I focus on the player receiving a serve rather than the one serving. The focus is intense, every muscle poised to react instantly to meet the ball wherever it lands. Watching a player return a powerful serve is captivating because it showcases agility, quick decision-making, and strategic thinking under pressure. 

Similarly, in the "game of life," our ability to respond skillfully to the challenges and opportunities that come our way (sometimes faster than 100 mph) defines our resilience and character. We must be fully present, adaptable, and ready to anticipate and respond to whatever life serves us.

Reimagining Holiness: The Revolutionary Approach of the Izbicher Rebbe

The Jewish people faced a profound challenge after they left Egypt as they had to overcome the oppressive mindset of slavery that had been imposed upon them for centuries. To fulfill their new role as the Kohanim of the world and be a light unto nations, they had to embark on a journey of self-discovery and redefine their understanding of true holiness. 

The theme of the Torah portion of Kedoshim, is "Be Holy for I am holy." The classic definition of "kodosh" in Hebrew is that sanctity and sacredness is separate and apart from the ordinary or mundane. However, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner, a Polish rabbi in the 1880s, otherwise known as the "Izbicher Rebbe," took an innovative approach to holiness and preached a message that resonates with the challenges faced in today's world. 

The Izbicher explains holiness means being "available," open, and receptive. To be holy means being available to receive God's blessings and attuned to the divine presence in our lives. It is about being open-hearted and open-minded, willing to receive the grace and abundance of the universe.

Readiness and Responsibility

And it goes in both directions - being available also implies a readiness to serve and respond to the needs of the moment with compassion and dedication. Just as Moses responded to God's call with a resounding "Hineini" - "Here I am" - we too are called to be present and attentive to the opportunities for service and growth that come our way.

Furthermore, in a view that departed from traditional Chassidic thought, the Izbicher emphasized that each individual is responsible for cultivating holiness within themselves. This approach underscores the importance of personal accountability and proactive engagement with spiritual growth.

By teaching that holiness is always within reach, the Rebbe offers a message of hope and resilience that can help us navigate and withstand the challenges we now face. This perspective can be a grounding force, reminding us of our inherent worth and connection to something greater, even during turmoil and uncertainty.

The Izbicher also points out that just as we are always to be ready and prepared, so is God, who is always ready and prepared to save us, the Jewish people, and to bestow blessings. 

Embodying Holiness

As we reflect on the wisdom of the Izbicher Rebbe and the teachings of Kedoshim, we should strive to be open, receptive, and ready to serve. Let us embrace the call to holiness as availability, allowing divine blessings to flow through us and enrich the world around us. 

When fear makes us want to curl up and self-protect, this way of understanding holiness is cultivating a sense of openness and receptivity in our interactions with others, being present in the moment, ready to serve, and receiving with gratitude.

As we strive to embody holiness in our daily lives, let us be open, not closed, to the opportunities for service and growth that come our way. May we be available to receive the blessings God has in store for us. 

And let us say, "Hineini," Here I am, ready to serve, ready to receive, ready to be holy.

Internalize and Actualize:


-       How do you define holiness in your own life? Is it about being separate and apart from the ordinary, or do you resonate more with holiness as being open and available to receive blessings and divine presence?


-       Reflect on the idea of personal responsibility for cultivating holiness within yourself. How can you embody holiness in your daily life by practicing being present in the moment, ready to serve, and receptive to divine blessings?


-       How does the concept of readiness and availability resonate with you in your journey toward personal growth and resilience? Can you take proactive steps to engage with spiritual growth and deepen your connection to something greater than yourself?




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