Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Amidah - Part 3 - Holiness

I was fascinated when I heard this at my Catholic best friend's daughter's First Communion:

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts!  The world is filled with His glory!

Yet this is in fact part of the Shabbat version the third blessing of the Amidah.

What does it mean to be "holy"?  The Hebrew word is "Kadosh".   Several words which are related to it are:

Kiddush: Sanctification of ceremonial wine
Kiddushin: Sacrament of marriage
Kaddish: Blessing said for mourning (as well as on other occasions)
Beit ha-Mikdash: The Holy Temple

Interestingly, another word from the same word is the Biblical word for "cult prostitute": "Keddesha".  This was, of course, in reference to Canaanite pagan practices, not to the worship of G*d as prescribed in the Torah.  However, it does highlight that "holiness" is not necessarily identical with "goodness".  In fact, etymologically, the rood means "separate".  By making something "holy" we set it apart, make it distinct.  There is nothing intrinsically different about the wine -- until we say a blessing about it!  Your intended bride/groom are no different than any other member of the appropriate sex -- until you exchange those vows!  The Kaddish is used primarily for separating sections of the daily service, and its use in mourning is derivative of the mourner's need to pray in the community.  In this sense, it is clear that the "Keddesha" was also "set apart" for a particular purpose.....

Let's reread the blessing with this in mind:

Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh Adonai Tzeva'ot  (Separate, separate, separate is the Lord of Hosts)
Melo kol ha-aretz kevodo! (The world is filled with His glory)

We insist three times that G*d is apart -- and yet He fills the whole world.  This is another contradiction embraced by the liturgy.  We at once declare G*d's holiness/separateness, as well as His ubiquity. He is everywhere, even in the most mundane (worldly) places and events.

I am reminded of a story of a rabbi who kept a card in his pocket at all times.  On one side, it said:

I am made of the dust of the earth.

and on the other,

For me the whole universe was created.

In the same way, we can at once see G*d as "above" everything, as well as "within" everything.

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