In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, Israel365 is excited to launch a new series of essays that will unlock the secrets of the Hebrew Bible!
Excerpted from Rabbi Akiva Gersh’s forthcoming book, 75 Hebrew Words You Need to Understand the Bible (available soon!) these essays illuminate the connection between related Hebrew words, revealing Biblical secrets only accessible through Hebrew.
Enjoy the series – and happy 75th birthday to the State of Israel!
“Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2)
דבר אל כל עדת בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם קדשים תהיו כי קדוש אני יהוה אלהיכם.
“And let them make Me a holy sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:8)
ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם.
“You shall be holy, for I, your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). The Hebrew word kedushah is generally used to describe “holiness.” But Its root, kadosh, means “to be separate,” for only when we distinguish between the holy and mundane can we experience holiness. Many of the Biblical commandments require us to separate one thing from another, such as commandments that separate dairy and meat foods, prohibit the weaving of wool and linen and forbid the grafting of different species of trees. A holy nation must learn to distinguish and separate.
To become holy, we must nullify our egos and dedicate ourselves to serving God and helping other people. As Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz wrote, “Where there is ego, there cannot be holiness; holiness can reside only where there is a surrender of the ‘I,’ where the self is nullified before its supernal source.”
Holiness also exists in time. “Remember the day of Shabbat to make it holy” (Exodus 31:16). We make Shabbat different and holy through special prayers, fine clothing, delicious meals and by elevating our speech. At the end of Shabbat, we recognize the departure of the unique holiness of the day by reciting the blessing, “Blessed are You, God, King of the Universe, Who separates between the holy and the mundane.”
The holiest place in the world is Jerusalem, the location chosen to build the Holy Temple for God, known as the Beit HaMikdash, the “House of Holiness.” The name “House of Holiness” reflects the Bible’s earlier command to build the Tabernacle, the predecessor to the Holy Temple. “And let them make Me a holy sanctuary that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8).