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{Originally posted to Rabbi Weinberg’s website, The Foundation Stone}

I had the joyous privilege this past Shabbat to pray with a symphony of people. The voices that soared together in song came from different worlds. The descendant of generations of Halachic giants sang with Satmar chassidim sitting next to a Chabadnik who danced with a Breslaver. A television writer, one of the holiest teachers I’ve ever met, joined voices with a money manager who prays in English. A meticulously dressed executive connected with an older hippie. The soft spoken, spiritually minded doctor sang with the staid intellectual.

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We are repeatedly warned in this week’s portion against mixing species, and this unusual mix of people certainly seemed to treading on the line of the law much as many marriages in which we combine totally different backgrounds and cultures. When are we forbidden and when are we encouraged to mix species and combine worlds? We can easily delineate the black and white boundaries of the Halacha. However, when we distill the message of the law we find a powerful lesson.

The portion begins with the challenge to be holy, commonly mistranslated as the need to create boundaries. The true definition of holiness is to cross the boundary between heaven and earth. We are forbidden to combine species connecting their lowest common denominators, their purely earthly definitions. We are encouraged to make combinations that allow each world to meet beyond their highest common denominators so that, together, they can connect heaven and earth.

The marriage of two people who have so much in common is often just that, common, an earthly connection of mutual interests. The marriage that combines different worlds in a way that challenges each spouse to aspire to reach for the highest connection will reach beyond the earthly and allow the two to touch heaven, as the Talmud teaches, “Come and I will show you where heaven and earth are so close they appear to be kissing.”

The people with whom I prayed this past Shabbat share few common earthly denominators. They connect at their highest common denominator; their desire to connect their earth to heaven.

I look out at a classroom filled with children, each of whom comes from a different world, and I want to share the beauty and joy of Torah with them. They need the basic information but can we afford to continue to convey that information at the earthly level, information, without sparking the aspiration for the heavenly within each child? When we address the lowest common denominator, we are mixing worlds at the earthly level. When we ignite the heavenly spark of aspiration, we are instructing them in the art of becoming holy.

We limit ourselves to the earthy when our bible studies are limited to only how earlier generations have read the text. We find holiness in study that encourages us to listen to how the words resonate inside of our souls, inspiring us to explore the heavens hidden in the words, allowing our earthly minds to kiss the heavens.

Shabbat, when we separate ourselves from so much of our earthly concerns and focus on our highest aspirations, we find the holiness that allows our earth to rise so high as to kiss the heavens.

Shabbat Shalom.

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