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Throughout our prayers we talk about G-d's Kedusha. For example, we say "Ata kadosh", "Nekadesh es shimcha", etc. Kedusha is generally translated as "holiness". Holiness, in turn, generally refers to being "Godly". With that understanding, saying Hashem is Kadosh is circular reasoning - we are saying that G-d is godly, an obvious statement that would not occupy such a prominent role in our prayers.

The Kabbalists, specifically the Ramchal and Nefesh HaChaim, have one understanding of Hashem's Kedusha. I am looking for a non-Kabbalistic approach.

I know that Rashi (Vayikra 19:2 and numerous other places in Chumash) understands Kedusha as seperation. I am not sure what that would mean in reference to G-d.

How would the Rishonim and Pashtanim understand the meaning of Hashem's Kedusha in a way that accounts for its importance?

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In Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's Handbook of Jewish thought part one, he explains this kedusha as meaning completely different and separate than any part of creation. This includes his not being corporeal and not existing within the constraints of time and space.

EDIT: Here's the exact quote with his sources from chapter two, titled 'God'. Notice the ideas mentioned in paragraph 17 are not included in paragraph 16, but are related and an explenation of the idea in 16.

2:16 Because of God's antithesis to all material attributes, He is called Pure(18) and Holy(19).

2:17 As creator of ALL things, God is also the Creator of space and time. He therefore does not exist in space and time(20).

Footnotes. (18) Cf. Brakhoth 10a; VaYikra Rabba 4:8; Devarim Rabbah 2:26; from Habakkuk 1:3. (19) Kuzari 4:3. Cf. Leviticus 19:2, 21:8, Isaiah 6:3; VaYikra Rabbah 24:9; Tosafoth, Kiddushin 2b, s.v. DeAssar. (20) Emunoth VeDeyoth 2:11,12; Sh'vil Emunah ad loc. 2:11:10; Moreh Nevukhim 2:8, 2:30; Ikkarim 2:18; Asarah Maamaroth, Choker Din 1:16; Derekh Mitzvothekha 57b. Moreover, if God existed in the space-time continuum, then He could be assigned a position in this continuum. It would then be possible to soak of two concepts with relation to God, namely, His essence and his position. This would introduce an element of plurality which is not permissible.

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The Malbim explains that Kadosh means separate and above any aspect of materialism or the lowliness of physicality.

Accordingly, Hashem being Kadosh would mean that he is completely separate from physicality.

  • What your saying is a logical explanation of Kedushah. But isn't it a little obvious? Why do we treat it as so important? – LN6595 Feb 6 '15 at 1:37
  • @LN6595 I don't know what you mean by "obvious." You mean that it is obvious that Hashem is removed from physicality? I don't know why being obvious makes something less important. It is the subject of at least one of the Ikarim, if not more. – Y     e     z Feb 6 '15 at 3:53
  • True, it is the central point of one of the 13 Ikarim, as well as the Sefer Ikarim's, as well as one of the primary prohibitions, Avoda Zara. I stand corrected. – LN6595 Feb 6 '15 at 18:48

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