Sunday, September 4, 2022

Creating Kedushah- Holiness-in Every Day Life


Lesson Eight Creating Kedushah- Holiness-in in Every Day Life

For the video of the presentation, go to:

My teacher, Rabbi Max Kadushin, was perhaps the first academician to apply
approaches of modern anthropology to Judaism.

 Thus, in his work, the Rabbinic Mind, he demonstrated that the classic Jewish process of determining key elements of value could not be put into the straight jacket of classic philosophy. Rather, the Rabbinic Mind based itself on what he called” value-concepts”, core nouns, around which one could create statements that gave guidance in what is “ Emet v Emunah”, true and faithful. It is the outcome of a thought process he called “ organic thinking”.
With a title like “organic” it should be very popular today.
One of his favorite quips” Was You There, Charlie”.- don’t attempt to find the historicity behind any statement in Rabbinic sources, rather, look at it in the text, and see how it was used and how it played out in Jewish thought.
One of his key concepts, which brings me to the topic today:
“Normal Mysticism”.
A contradiction of sorts—Can a mystic be normal. adhering to the norms of society, existence.
Mystic- from hidden, mystery, separate from this world.
Normal- involved with the normal, the worldly, the here and now.

Thus- in classic mysticism, existence is itself “ Maya”, an illusion. Classic line of “ Bhagavad Gita”- neither you have been, nor I have been ( neither mortals nor the gods).
the emphasis on “ self-annihilation”, self-abnegation”-(“bitul hayesh”). Goal- achieving the end of the cycle of reincarnation, nirvana. Thus, the emphasis on the ideal of the monastic life, abstention from worldly involvement. We find it also in Jewish circles- the Essenes, also, some classic Rabbinic statements.
Even in this very beautiful rendition of Elohai neshamah I played last week: an Persian translation, and I assume an English translation of the Farsi
Free my soul from this body—but that is the opposite of the Hebrew text, which assures me that while God takes back my soul, it is temporary, like my sleep.
Very few people know this today, out side of academic circles, but in the two centuries after ,the year zero, the big challenge to Judaism was not from Christianity, but from a movement that crossed the lines between Jew, Christian and Pagan. Referred to as Gnosticism, and in one form or other, was in the race to become the dominant religion of the Empire.
In essence, it felt that we were souls trapped in our body, products of a malicious Creator who had fashioned a rotten universe, and that only a select few could escape it.  It had one of two solutions: Either avoid all human pleasure all together, or indulge completely in every vice imaginable.
 Some of them even adopted Cain and the Snake in the Garden as their symbol.
Rabbinic Judaism was shaped in much way as a reaction against this world view.
My teacher emphasized then, what he termed” Normal”- to find the sacred in actual life, in daily activity.
This brings us to the idea of “ kedushah”, of creating the sacred in the profane(Chol).
If we speak of Judaism as a religion, it is not a religion of posting sets of dogmas ( despite the 13 principles of the Rambam) but of addressing the question,” How do I make my daily life such that my actions become action of sanctity.
So, what do we mean by “Kodesh”.
We use, in English, the term, Holy, or Sacred, but the connotation is that which is completely other, separated, other-worldly. Scholars of religion use the term “ numinous”. Contemplation of the Holy, the other, or even an experience of “ unio mistico”, a mysterious union, are core to much religious belief—and we do find it in Jewish circles, some in Kabbalah, some in Chasidism.
But-big but- Judaism turns it back on us, as forces us to keep our nose to the grind stone- the find the Kodesh inside, not outside the world. Or, to adopt a phrase from Kabbalah- to find the “ nitztatzot hakodesh” the sparks of holiness that have been scattered through the universe and elevate them, restore them, and the matter that it in enclosed in.
So, we have terms: Kodesh
Kedushah- Kaddish- Kiddushin- Eretz Hakodesh-Kiddush Hashem
Example- God is “ Kadosh”- Isaiah-Triple Holy-Kadosh- Kadosh-kadosh.
Leviticus 19:Kedoshim tihyu—You shall be Holy-because, I the Lord your God, am Holy.
In what ways—we have the general rules of behavior, listed in the verses that follow- verses of charity and compassion, but also verses of religious obligation and personal sexual conduct. Not that those are actions that define God for us, but that in leading lives that are dedicated and focused, we parallel the existence of  God.
Thus, the children of Israel are to be” kedoshim”, separated, distinct from the hoi polio of  humanity that is guided only by the pleasure principal, the libido, the passions ( not that it is true of all civilizations, where there is always an ideal elite that has standards, but, in  truth, until the rise of religions that conveyed values in living, human life was” short, nasty and brutish.”)
How did we then carry out a life of “ Kedushah”- sanctification- without “ get thee to a nunnery” or a convent or Ashram or the Dead Sea—indeed- how did we do this when we no longer had the ceremony of the Korban- the sacrifice- from the  word” Karov”-Nearness?
Do we punish ourselves or deny ourselves?
That’s what Gandhi did:
“After taking his vows of poverty and chastity, Gandhi began setting up ashrams (essentially Hindu monasteries) to teach his ideas to others. … These ashrams took in young boys and girls and began training them to live their lives without sex. Children and adults of both genders were expected to live, sleep, and even bathe together. But any sort of sexual talk or behavior was punished. And of course, Gandhi also subjected himself to these experiments in chastity. Gandhi frequently slept and bathed with his young female followers. … Gandhi argued that it was a way for him to increase his spiritual power. …. But the opportunity to bathe or sleep with Gandhi was seen as a great honor among his followers.”
[ Gandhi also told us Jews to role over dead in the face of the Nazis. ! The Jewish-American journalist Louis Fischer, wrote a biography titled The Life of Mahatma Gandhi, (the basis for the Richard Attenborough’s Academy Award-winning film Gandhi (1982).) Fisher asked him: “You mean that the Jews should have committed collective suicide?” Gandhi responded: “Yes, that would have been heroism.” In1947 he confessed to Fischer that  “Judaism is obstinate and unenlightening.
So, what do we answer Gandhi, on self-denial and on Judaism?]
(Rab in Yer. id., at the close)
Rebbi Ḥizqiah, Rebbi Cohen in the name of Rav: Every person will have to justify himself for everything his eye saw and which he did not eat2
.. Rebbi Eleazar took note of this statement and saved coins with which he ate every kind of new produce once a year.
Rabbi Elazar HaKappar, the esteemed one, says: What is the meaning when the verse states with regard to a nazirite: “And make atonement for him, for he sinned by the soul” (Numbers 6:11)? And with which soul did this person sin by becoming a nazirite? Rather, in afflicting himself by abstaining from wine, he is considered to have sinned with his own soul, and he must bring a sin-offering for the naziriteship itself, for causing his body to suffer. And an a fortiori inference can be learned from this: Just as this person, in afflicting himself by abstaining only from wine, is nevertheless called a sinner, in the case of one who afflicts himself by abstaining from everything, through fasting or other acts of mortification, all the more so is he described as a sinner.( Talmud Nazir 19a)
The historic Jew( as opposed to the contemporary Jew) saw life as defined by “ halakhah”—from_”holekh- to go -the path, the path of life. We often use the word” din” for a law, but that is to fall into a Christian dichotomy, which saw itself as” religion of love” as opposed to our “ religion of law.” We, too, often fell into this trap by ourselves, to the point, that we, in some sense, confused the idea of an iron-clad -law as the be-all and end-all.
 Rather, the correct operative term , as halakhah- the path to follow. We want to be in the path, not off the path,( lost in the bushes & thorns). Best phrase”” Hatznea lechet”. Walk modestly in the presence of God.
Basis for our morning benedictions ( p 10 in Sim Shalom)
Everything is an occasion for recognizing Kodesh in the chol-
When one awakens, he recites:
My God, the soul You have placed within me is pure.
. . .One day You will take it from me and restore it within me in the time to come.
As long as the soul is within me, I thank You,
O Lord my God and God of my ancestors, Master of all worlds, Lord of all souls.
Blessed are You, O Lord, who restores souls to lifeless bodies.
Upon hearing the sound of the rooster, one should recite: Blessed…Who gave the heart [sekhvi] understanding to distinguish between day and night.
Upon opening his eyes, one should recite: Blessed…Who gives sight to the blind.
Upon sitting up straight, one should recite: Blessed…Who sets captives free.
Upon dressing, one should recite: Blessed…Who clothes the naked, as they would sleep unclothed.
Upon standing up straight, one should recite: Blessed…Who raises those bowed down.
Upon descending from one’s bed to the ground, one should recite: Blessed…Who spreads the earth above the waters, in thanksgiving for the creation of solid ground upon which to walk.
Upon walking, one should recite: Blessed…Who makes firm the steps of man.
Upon putting on his shoes, one should recite: Blessed…Who has provided me with all I need, as shoes are a basic necessity.
Upon putting on his belt, one should recite: Blessed…Who girds Israel with strength.
Upon spreading a shawl upon his head, one should recite: Blessed…Who crowns Israel with glory.

Upon washing his face, one recites: Blessed…Who removes the bands of sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eyelids.
Even going to the rest room!
Upon exiting, one says:
Blessed…Who formed man in wisdom,
and created in him many orifices and cavities.
It is revealed and known before the throne of Your glory
that were one of them to be ruptured or blocked, it would be impossible to survive and stand before You
Every aspect of daily life could be appreciated
Blessings over various foods-
Hamotzi, Gefen, Shehhakol, Pri hatetz, haadamah, Mezonot-bread, wine, general drinks, fruit, vegetables,general cooked foods.
Full list in Sim Shalom p 708

On seeing wonders in nature, including lightning, shooting stars, vast deserts, mountains and a sunrise:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, Source of


On seeing the ocean:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe who has made

the great sea.

On seeing a rainbow:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe who

remembers, is faithful to, and fulfills Your

covenant with all that You created.

On hearing thunder, or seeing a storm:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe whose power

and might fill the whole world.

On smelling fragrant spices:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe, who creates

various spices.

On smelling the fragrance of herbs or plants:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe who creates

fragrant plants.

On smelling fragrant fruit:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe who gives a

pleasant fragrance to fruits.

On seeing trees blossoming for the first time in a



Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe whose works

are lacking nothing, and who has created

beautiful creatures and beautiful trees for

the children of Adam.

On seeing an ugly creature:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe who has

fashioned different creatures.


I gave this blessing at an invocation where hockey legend, Gordie Howe, was honored.

On seeing trees or creatures of striking beauty:

Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe in whose world

exists such beauty.

On seeing a person distinguished in Torah studies:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe who has shared

wisdom with those who show awe.

Board of Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago’s Online Resource Center)
For head of state: who has given his glory to flesh and blood( my teacher, Prof Seymour Siegel, to Pres Nixon)
Continue theme of Kadosh
Kedushah- in public( Minyan, edah)  in the Amidah-
Also” Kaddish”- not for mourning, but for end of unit of prayer( Hatzi, Shalem) or study ( D rabannan,
) extended to time of morning-
Both tied to “ kidsush hashem”- sanctification of the divine name in public- Hence, minyan of ten, is necessary to create a public.

Kiddush over wine on Shabbat, festivals- Our declaration acts to make the meal a sacred event( plus the good food!). God is” mekadesh haShabbat” and we are the partners in kiddush.

Marriage- “kiddushin” dedication- Harey at mekudeshet- leads to “ nisuin”-elevation, the sealing of the marriage. Catholic-marriage is also a sacrament- but-it is in conflict with the marriage to the church-priest or nun-either or.
 (Protestants- removed the conflict.)

PS The Rabbi, as exemplar of halakhah, was expected to get married and have children( or at least give it a try).

 The one case recorded in Rabbinic sources of a celibate Rabbi himself condemned celibacy:whoever does not engage in reproduction is as one who sheds blood…( Ben Azzai ,t. Ybamot 8:7)

On sexuality- the Shulkhan Arukh-Rama- and Rambam endorses an
y act -kedarcha u shelo kedarcha- as long as both partners are in agreement.( Even Haezer 25:2)
Therefore, every aspect of life is a potential for Kedushah- what we eat, how we talk, how we engage in business, how we work, and how we rest form working. Every aspect of every day was involved in creating holiness in this life.
Wait- what about getting us in to Heaven? Isn’t that what religions are about?
The Bible was amazingly silent about the afterlife. Surely, the people of Israel believed something about it, had stories and legends, yet those seem to have been erased from the record. The Cohen, the priest, in every other ancient religion,  cared for the dead, who mummified the Pharaoh’s and the royalty. The Cohen, the priest, in Judaism, was forbidden to touch the dead, and till today, a Cohen, descendant of the priests, does not set foot at the graveside. Why so? To force us to focus on this life.

Even when, in  the time of the Second Temple, the concept of a resurrection form death became a Jewish principal, it was not a denial of this life, but intended as a affirmation of this life. Just so, the Messianic era, was seen, not as the elimination of normal existence, but the restoration of a pure and trouble free of the Jewish people in its land.  

The purpose of kedushah- as expressed by British poet ,William Blake, 2 centuries ago:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
Blake's illustration of the Creator

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