*Shorty is a short post
This eternal question has been the focus of human endeavors for millennia. Prophet Isaiah delivers a succinct answer to it, describing his vision of the Seraphim crying to each other, saying:
“…Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh (Holy, Holy, Holy) is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his Kavod (Glory)” (Isaiah 6:3).
Based on this verse from the Bible, a Jew prays several times a day in the most sacred part of the daily prayer (Tefilat Shmona-Esre): “You are Kadosh and your name is Kadosh”.
However, the English translation of Kadosh (holy) fails to deliver the full scope of the meaning of the Hebrew-language root K.D.S (ק.ד.ש), source of Kadosh. When a Jewish groom marries his loved one, he recites under the Bridal Canopy (Chuppah), as he places a ring on her finger:
הֲרֵי אַתְּ מְקֻדֶּשֶׁת לִי בְּטַבַּעַת זוֹ כְּדַת משֶׁה וְיִשְׂרָאֵל
(“With this ring, you are consecrated (Mekudeshet) to me according to the law of Moses and Israel”).
The translation is somewhat misleading: there is no intention to state that the bride becomes sanctified, or holy. Rather, that the bride becomes separated, namely, unavailable and inaccessible to other men. Indeed, when we examine various biblical uses of the root K.D.S, this interpretation keeps resurfacing. For example:
“And you shall be holy (Kedoshim) to me for I the Lord am holy (Kadosh) and have separated you from the peoples to be mine” (Leviticus 20:26).
Kadosh simply means separated.
But what does it mean that God is separate? Separate from what?
The first verse of Genesis says it all:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
With these seven non-ambiguous Hebrew words, the Bible declares, in its first verse, that pantheism (“God and the world are one”) is null and void:
In the beginning, God has created the spiritual world (“Heavens”) and the physical world (“Earth”); Therefore, God cannot be part of the created. God is separate (Kadosh) and beyond.
This fundamental tenet of the Jewish faith is well rooted in the Torah and in various Jewish interpretations delivered by Jewish rabbis over the ages. Let us address two examples:
Example : One of the Hebrew names for God is “The place (Ha–Makom)”. This bizarre term originated in the following verse, part of the Divine response to Moses request “Show me thy glory (Kevodchah)” (Exodus 33:18):
“And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place with me and thou shall stand upon a rock…; and I will cover thee with my hand while I pass by and I will take away my hand and thou shall see my back but my face shall not be seen” (Exodus 33:21-23).
Jewish rabbis explain the “place”:
(שהוא מקומו של עולם, ואין עולמו מקומו” (בראשית רבה סח, ט”
(“That He is the place of the world, but not the world His place”; Bereshit Rabbah 68:9).
Example : By similar vein:
“..I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee…And He said, thou cannot see my face for no man shall see me and live” (Exodus 33:18-20).
In other words: Seeing God (“my face”) is impossible while we live. No knowledge of God Himself is possible.
We now understand why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision turn to God by His most important and significant name, Kadosh, namely separate and beyond His creation.
And that is all we know about God.
Humans cannot know anything else. All other biblical Hebrew names for the Divine, supposedly describing God, are indeed mere coins for observable modes of Divine leadership, via which God sustains and manages His creation; And these modes are all observed post factum, as accurately conveyed in the Bible (“thou shall see my back but my face shall not be seen”).
We, mere mortals, have to make do with this important message and fundamental distinction, expressed so explicitly by the very first verse of Genesis (and repeated elsewhere as we have demonstrated):
God is not part of the world. There was creation: God created the non-physical (“Heavens”) and He created the physical (“Earth”). Therefore, God is Kadosh (separate) and His name is Kadosh.