Sunday, February 25, 2007

Kodesh Kodashim

I guess my inspiration from last night’s engagement party is still going strong. Another nice idea on getting married in Judaism:

There are 4 things in this world which are called Kodesh Kodashim: 3 books and one spot on earth (on har habayit).


The 3 books which are called kodesh kodashim are:

1. Shir Hashirim – Rabbi Akiva said that all the books in tanach are called kodesh, but Shir Hashirim is Kodesh Kodashim
2. Kuzari - The student of the Ksot Hachoshen, in the name of his rav, said the Kuzari was Kodesh Kodashim, “Kayadua” (as it is known… in other words, everyone knows it is kodesh kodashim).
3. Orot from Rav Kook – Rav Zvi Yehuda, his son, was the person who put it together. Someone asked him once why he called it simply Orot, when another book from Rav Kook which was put together by the Nazir (Harav David Cohen) was called Orot Hakodesh. Rav Tzvi Yehuda answered: Orot Hakodesh is kodesh, Orot – is kodesh kodashim!

All 3 of these books are must haves for any Jewish home!

An obvious question comes up:
What makes something rise from the realm of kodesh and become kodesh kodashim?
There are a few answers which are given to this question but I think two of them stand out. For both of the answers, we will concentrate on the thing which was first called kodesh hakodashim, that special place in the beit hamikdash/

So, what was so special about kodesh hakodashim?
In kodesh hakodashim, the holiest spot was a place where two small statues, called cherubim, stood. I think this is the key to explain to special aspect of kodesh hakodashim.

First of all, let us remember that the torah explicitly says that we are not allowed to make statues for ourselves! Some commentators even say that if the torah hadn’t asked us to make those cherubim, we would have not been allowed to!



Harav Mordechai Elon Shli”ta once told us something very deep. Kodesh, in Hebrew, doesn’t only mean holy. Kodesh, in general, means separated. That is why we say Kiddush on Friday night, to separate Shabbat from the rest of the week. That is why we have kiddushin at a wedding, because through kiddushin, the woman separates herself and becomes the wife of that one man. When we say something is kodesh, we mean it separated itself from this world in order to be a part of the spiritual world of holiness.

If this is kodesh, then what is kodesh kodashim?
Kodesh Kodashim is when something which is holy is brought back down into this world. It was separated into a world of holiness, but now, with its holiness, its separated from the separation and brought back down to earth. Kodesh Hakodashim describes the most physical actions which hold in them some very deep levels of holiness.

We have already discussed this on numerous times, but I’ll repeat it once more. God could have created this world full of angels listening to his every command. Why did he give us freedom of choice?
The reason why God created this world is in order for us to sanctify his name on this earth. What is a greatest sancitification? When an angel without freedom of choice follows his name or when we, with all our freedom of choice, decide to still follow it?

Chassidim call this: “laasot lo dira batachtonim” – to make for God a room in this lowly world. Since this world is so low, when we are able to make some space for God in it, it becomes such a great Kiddush hashem!

Rav Kook in Orot calls it Kodesh She-baChol, the holiness which is in the mundane. He says that the Kodesh SheBachol is on a much higher level then the kodesh shebakodesh (holiness in the holiness). He then goes on to explain that only in erets Israel can you truly have a life filled with kodesh shebachol. Where do politics, farming, seasons, picking up garbage, going to the army etc… become a part of your religious life? But this is another subject for another time lol.

We can now understand what Kodesh Kodashim is:
In the kodesh hakodashim, there were two statues. This seems to be the most mundane object, even seems to contradict holiness! But since it was done based on God’s commandment, it was kodesh. It was holiness brought back down to earth. It was (and will be soon) kodesh kodashim.

The same logic applies to the books we mentioned:
-Shir Hashirim is a book which one can read only with an explicit understanding and think it is an erotic piece of poetry! Some Rabbis in Massechet Meguila even argued it wasn’t a holy book! Rabbi Akiva understood better. He told them: You are right, its not kodesh… its kodesh kodashim! It’s the kedusha which is communicated with what seems to be a mundane, romantic message.
-The Kuzari is a story of a king who wants to convert to another religion and goes to see philosophers, Christians and muslims before finally going to see a Jewish Rabbi and being convinced by his arguments. However, the first dialogue he has with the Rabbi is a weird one. The Rabbi tells him he is Jewish and he is the son of Abraham, Isaac and Yaacov. The king of Khazar answers him telling him: Why are you telling me this? I want to know about your religion, not your lineage! Again, the King did not understand the highest level of holiness, the level of Kodesh Kodashim.
-Orot is a book in which Rav Kook described how secular Zionism was really atchalta digueoula, the start of the redemption process. He looked at something mundane and saw the holiness within it.


As I said at the beginning of this post, I am still inspired by yesterday’s engagement party. And as you should understand by now, a wedding is also mamash kodesh kodashim. You take what can be the most mundane romantic relationship and rise it up to a level of holiness like no other by bringing God into the relationship!

The second explanation to kodesh kodashim is more simple to understand:
In the kodesh kodashim, the cherubim would look at each other when am Israel was in a good relationship with Gd, and they would look away when am Israel was in a bad relationship with Gd.
Therefore, Kodesh Kodashim can also be a representation of the relationship of am Israel, as a nation, to G-d.

Again, the books match that explanation. All 3 of these books talk about Jewish Nationalism and it’s relationship to God.
Shir Hashirim: Rashi reads it as a metaphor for the love of Am Israel to God.
Kuzari: The central book of philosophy on Jewish Nationalism.
Orot: Rav Kook’s explanation on the place of Jewish Nationalism in our generation of Redemption.

And as we have seen in yesterday’s post, this is also deeply related to weddings in the Jewish Tradition.

May we all be zoche to live of a life of kodesh kodashim, both by elevating the physical world around us and by connecting ourselves to the Jewish National message, and may we soon have the kohen gadol entering the kodesh kodashim on every Yom Kippur, with the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash.

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