Parashat Emor: On Declaring Holiness
Mikraei Kodesh – this is the term used in our parsha and throughout the Torah for holidays – days that are “called” holy, called holy by “you,” Israel. The power to proclaim holiness is given to human beings. We make the day holy by declaring it so and celebrating it with holiness (not working, kiddush, eating special meals, wearing special clothes, . . .) The day itself derives some holiness from God, surely, but it is our job to call out that holiness and bring it out into the daylight and the concrete world of action (and inaction). The rabbis go so far as to learn from this verse that God Himself cedes to the human court’s calendar decisions and declares in the heavenly courts only the dates decided down below by humans.
Mikraei Kodesh. It is our job to “call out” the holy in the world, to notice it and proclaim it. We are like the angels who “call” out to each other each morning: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” We also are “callers of holiness.”
What does it mean to be a “caller of holiness?” It means to notice with awe the divine sparks around us, to notice them in nature – in the simplest flower and the largest tree and the blow of the breeze through the leaves – and to notice them in each other, to really see that each person we encounter was created in the divine image, to uncover inside them that purity and sacredness of soul.
Shiviti Hashem lenegdi tamid. I set God before me at all times. Abraham Joshua Heschel says that each human being is a shiviti, a reminder of God’s presence. We set God before us by seeing God in all that is around us, by calling out and drawing out the hidden holiness. We are “callers of holiness.”