The Beauty of Holiness | Adira Botwinick
What does holiness mean to you?
Holiness to me is a feeling based on a connection with G-d. I see holiness as an emotion and as a way of behaving. You can act holy. Not in a holier-than-thou way, but in a dignified way of being: talking, walking, being mindful of what you say, how you treat others, and keeping an invisible string between you and G-d strong. To me holiness is synonymous with humility. One cannot be holy without being humble. I think about someone who is holy as someone who does not know that he/she is holy; rather, they embody holiness.
What day to day practices help you to feel holy?
Struggling with this right now. I am a mom of a 2.5 year old and, as of next week (February 28th, G-d willing), a one-year-old! Balancing their needs, our home’s needs, my husband's schedule, my desire to be a proactive member of my community, my desire to lose baby weight (ha!), mixed with currently living in a community that doesn't have many Observant Orthodox Jews, I struggle to find practices that help me feel holiness. Judaism is a very communal religion and, for me, doing practices that are holy more often than not will involve others: learning with others, singing with others, dancing with others, observing with others.
Are there certain spaces or places that help you draw closer to G-d?
There is this one synagogue in Jerusalem that no matter what emotional place I am in in my life it can bring me closer to G-d in the span of a few minutes. The energy there, the people who intentionally and deliberately choose to go there...they let loose there, spiritually. They pray body, heart, and soul. No one is looking at the clock. Everyone is there be with their creator AND with their fellow man and to rejoice in our existence and the laws and spirituality He infused in our world. When I was 7.5 months pregnant I walked a half-hour to pray there because I knew it would raise me up.
Why do you feel it is important for you to designate time to focus on holy practices?
Oh yes, because without it, I would have nothing. If I don't set time to connect I begin to feel empty...and usually that means I'm a bit more grouchy. Not only that, I begin to miss my "companion," G-d.
What can taking time to be holy do for our relationships with others? How has it affected your relationships?
I think the tricky thing with holiness is there can be a fine line of thinking you’re better than other people. I like to think more in terms of "spiritually connected," which in turn translates into acting holy. It's harder to use profanity or to be condescending when you just had a really powerful conversation with G-d, in earnest. I find I'm nicer when I'm more "spiritually connected."
How do you make holiness a priority in your life? How do you make it a concrete rather than an abstract concept?
This is an interesting question, especially, I think, for an observant Jew. There are many, many laws that affect my everyday. Different sponges and dishes for meat and dairy, saying a prayer before anything crosses my palette, saying a blessing of grace after I use the bathroom—I could go on. So on one hand, Orthodox Judaism is very concrete. So much, that you may be practicing an Orthodox lifestyle but sometimes forget to take the time to really get spiritual and holy. I guess, in theory, I should be deeply connecting with my everyday keeping of the commandments, but I view them as helpmates to living an intentional life. It's thought out and elevating the mundane to holy, but to me doesn’t feel spiritual. Spirituality, for me, comes from having one-on-one time with G-d (which is why, believe it or not, I love Yom Kippur!).
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
— Proverbs 29 & 96
Adira is a 30-year-old still figuring out life in every realm: spiritually, logistically (send organizational tips please!) and emotionally. She is originally from Cleveland, Ohio and has lived in New York, Jerusalem, and Boston. She is an observant Orthodox Jew and loving it. She has a Masters in Social Work and, as of November, a happy stay-at-home mom after a proud 4 years in the profession. She plans on working outside of the home again, but is not worrying about the future now. She has two wonderful, hilarious, beautiful children, ages 4 and 2. She is married to a kind man, Simeon, who was a middle school English teacher and is currently finishing law school. Adira enjoys being involved in her religious and secular communities, and has been blessed by the diverse, and more importantly, nice, friends she has met in Boston. Adira is hoping that through this project she connects more to G-d on the daily.