Inquire, Inquire – 3
Wed. June 19, 2019
(16 Sivan 5779)
How does religion address mind, body, and spirit? In particular, I would like to make an attempt at answering this question, by referring to the Jewish concept of “kedushah.” “Thy way is in holiness [kedushah]” (Psalm 77:14, JPS 1917 Tanach). Holiness has to do with sanctification. “G-d blessed the seventh day and sanctified [KDSh] it” (Genesis 2:3). The root meaning of KDSh is to separate. Something that is sanctified is set apart for a holy purpose. In other words, sanctification places a holy status upon an individual or object, for the sake of a connection to G-d. Therefore, the person or object is elevated to a certain degree of holiness. Judaism, in particular, contains a strong element of sanctification in everyday life – even moreso on the Sabbath.
For example, mundane acts, such as eating are sanctified through a blessing said before eating. On the Sabbath, beginning on Friday evening, candles are lit, and blessings are said over wine and challah (a braided loaf of bread). In this manner, the day is further sanctified through those who remember (zachor) the day, and observe (shamor) the commandment to refrain from work on the Sabbath. Furthermore, inasmuch that upon waking up every morning, prayers are recited, thanking G-d for preserving and restoring the soul, the day as well the person become consecrated (sanctified). Holiness is brought into the life of a person, by designating time and space as set aside for connecting to G-d.
A brief comment on religion and spirituality may be relevant to the subject of kedushah (holiness). The word for blessing is beracha, having as a root meaning, to bend the knee, or to bring down. In saying a blessing over food, for example, it is taught that there is an actual measure of kedushah (substance of holiness), brought down from above, whereupon a sensitive individual can sense that kedushah.
This is akin to what a friend of mine mentioned, regarding Shabbos (the Sabbath) in Israel, that he could feel the kedushah in the air. When we direct our lives in a manner that acknowledges the Divine, we enhance our so-called mundane existence on Earth, by eliciting blessings from Above. The prayers, traditions, and personal as well as communal places where we worship constitute the aspect of religion, whereas the blessings, and sense of kedushah (holiness) received, pertain to the quality of spirituality.