This week’s parashaKedoshim, is a grand-slam. The first chapter of the portion, Leviticus 19, contains many of the most essential teachings and commandments of Judaism: Honor your father and mother and keep the Shabbat (verse 3), do not worship idols (4), do not steal (11), do not profane the name of God (12), do not insult the deaf or place a stumbling block before the blind (14), love your neighbor as yourself (18), keep the Shabbat again (30), show respect for the elderly (32), and treat the stranger in your midst as one of your own (33). The next chapter goes into more laws, prohibitions and potential consequences for our relationships with other human beings.

All of these commandments deal with the central issue of the parasha – in fact, its title – which is holiness.  In the second verse of chapter 19, as the parasha is just getting started, the lesson of the entire parasha, and arguably the entire Torah, is boiled down to one sentence: Kedoshim t’hiyu, ki kadosh ani (You shall be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am Holy).

How can we “be holy”? What does it even mean to “be holy”? The parasha explicitly suggests that by following God’s commandments, we can achieve holiness. I think that finding holiness is even simpler. To me and, as I understand it, the implicit message of this Torah reading, holiness is being deliberate in our interactions with others and with the world, and appreciating the beauty around us. This deliberation and appreciation can be most easily found on the holiest of days, Shabbat. 

Over the past several years, I have been blessed to sing Kabbalat Shabbat in many holy and unexpected places, ranging from a converted bomb shelter in Jerusalem immediately after the rocket siren sounded during Operation Pillar of Defenseto complete darkness during regular blackouts in Kathmandu, Nepal. But the holiest place that I have ever celebrated Shabbat is by the lake at camp.

At camp, we bring in Shabbat by the lake with the entire camp kehila(community). The power of more than 600 voices singing together as we watch bald eagles swoop over the lake and feel the shadow of the green hills and trees behind us never fails to give me chills. I believe that it is the combination of community and nature that makes Shabbat at camp so holy. God made beautiful people and beautiful nature, and when we bring them together like we do at camp, we become holy.