What does the word קֹדֶשׁ (sometimes קודש), kodesh, mean?

Its form is that of a noun, like אֹכֶל or בֹּקֶר or לֹבֶן. But קדושה is a noun, and (I'm pretty sure) it means "the state/quality of being קָדֹשׁ" (arguendo, "the state/quality of being holy"), so I find it unlikely that קֹדֶשׁ means the same. If it does, then what's the difference between it and קדושה?

And if קֹדֶשׁ means "something that is holy" — which I suspect, and which would explain phrases like קֹדֶשׁ קדשים (the room or the korbanos) — then how do we understand phrases like שַׁבַּת קֹדֶשׁ (literally then "the Shabas of something holy") and וּבְדִבְרֵי קָדְשְׁךָ (literally then "in your words of something holy")?


1 Answer 1


I think the difference might be that קֹדֶשׁ means "something holy" (just as אֹכֶל means "something edible"), whereas קְדֻשָּׁה is the abstract noun "holiness."

The form קְדֻשָּׁה doesn't seem to appear in Tanach; things there are always described as קֹדֶשׁ or קָדֹשׁ, with the former often - but not always - modifying a noun in construct form. So שבת קדש would mean "the Shabbos which is holy," ובדברי קדשך would mean "in Your words which are holy," and so forth. (Temurah 1:1 quotes the Biblical יִהְיֶה קֹּדֶשׁ and explains it as קדושה חלה עליו, which is a good example of the difference: the Torah is speaking in the active form, "it shall be a holy object," whereas the Mishnah uses the passive "holiness takes effect on it.")

(Although I once saw a note - it might have been in the Metsudah siddur, but I don't remember for certain - that R. Yaakov Kamenetsky zt"l noted that the standard translation of עיר הקדש as "the holy city" is incorrect, and it should be "the city of holiness." I think his point was that if הקדש was an adjective modifying עיר, then it would have had to be in the feminine form הַקְּדֹשָׁה. According to that, then, קֹדֶשׁ would indeed mean "holiness," and there'd be no difference in meaning between that and קְדֻשָּׁה - we would have to assume that it's simply a difference between Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew.)

  • 1
    +1; thanks. According to your first answer, which corresponds to my own suspicion as stated in the question, how do you parse שבת קדש and ובדברי קדשך? (You say they'd mean (respectively) "the Shabbos which is holy" and "in Your words which are holy", but I don't see how: they look like they should mean "the Shabas of the holy thing" and "in your words of the holy thing".)
    – msh210
    Sep 21, 2011 at 14:44

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