Wednesday, January 29, 2014

'amida (berakha 3), the limits of our understanding

The third blessing of the 'amida is also the shortest one. In this berakha we state that HaShem is "qadosh"; and that so is His name; and so are those who praise Him every day: the people of Israel .

But, what is "qadosh"?

It is impossible to translate this Hebrew term with just one word in English. "Qadosh" means: special, unique, different, consecrated and sometimes: "inaccessible or out of reach".

One example: in Hebrew qiddushin (from the same root as "qadosh" q-d-sh) means marriage. When a man marries a woman, she is consecrated (mequddeshet) to him, becoming for him unique, special and different from the rest of the women. At the same time, by being consecrated to her husband this woman is now "inaccessible" to any other bachelor.

In the context of our berakha, when referring to God as qadosh we hint to our inability to really perceive God, or God's Almighty-ness.

When saying ATA QADOSH we are stating that "God, is beyond our intellectual reach". God remains concealed to us.   Why do we emphasize this message here, at the end of these blessings of "Praise"?

Because in the two previous berakhot we have acknowledged God's intervention in history (Abot), from our ancestors until the future go'el (mashiah); we have said that God is Great, All- Powerful and Magnificent, and we have described and praised God's powers, His blessings, His miracles. By saying ata qadosh we convey a philosophical disclaimer, recognizing that no matter how much we have praised Him or will praise Him, we do not presume to really "know" God or to have praised Him exhaustively. Rather, what we just said about God is the little we grasp of Him from our human perspective.

VESHIMKHA QADOSH, and 'Your name is qadosh'. We are also incapable of grasping His name -the name of four letters- which conveys the idea of infinitude and eternity, concepts that lie beyond our intellectual capacities .

UQDOSHIM BEKHOL YOM. Still, the qedoshim, God's people, those who are consecrated to You (=Israel), praise You every day, as much as we are capable of praising You. An almost identical message constitutes the core of the qaddish (also from the root q-d-sh): le'ela min kol birkhata, etc. Your praise is beyond any praise that could be said of You.

BARUKH ATA HASHEM HA-EL HAKADOSH: Blessed are You, God, Whose power and praise remains 'far beyond our reach'.

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PM Stephen Harper's
Speech at the Knesset
Canada supports Israel fundamentally because it is right to do so.