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Kedushah (Hebrew: קְדֻשָּׁה‎) is a Hebrew word meaning "holiness". The term is frequently used in Judaism to describe God, and worldly items can also have holy status.

"Kedushah" is also the name of a prayer in Judaism which describes God's holiness.

Holiness in JudaismEdit

The Hebrew word קֹדֶשׁ‎, transliterated as qodesh, is used in the Torah to mean 'set-apartness' and 'separateness', as well as 'holiness' and 'sacredness'.[1] The Torah describes the Aaronite priests and the Levites as being selected by God to perform the Temple services; they, as well, are called "holy."

Holiness is not a single state, but contains a broad spectrum. The Mishnah lists concentric circles of holiness surrounding the Temple in Jerusalem: Holy of Holies, Temple Sanctuary, Temple Vestibule, Court of Priests, Court of Israelites, Court of Women, Temple Mount, the walled city of Jerusalem, all the walled cities of Israel, and the borders of the Land of Israel.[2] Distinctions are made as to who and what are permitted in each area.

Likewise, the Jewish holidays and the Shabbat are considered to be holy in time; the Torah calls them "holy [days of] gathering". Work is not allowed on those days, and rabbinic tradition lists 39 categories of activity that are specifically prohibited.[3]

Beyond the intrinsically holy, objects can become sacred through consecration. Any personal possession may be dedicated to the Temple of God, after which its misappropriation is considered among the gravest of sins. The various sacrifices are holy. Those that may be eaten have very specific rules concerning who may eat which of their parts, and time limits on when the consumption must be completed. Most sacrifices contain a part to be consumed by the priests – a portion of the holy to be consumed by God's holy devotees.

The encounter with the holy is seen as eminently desirable, and at the same time fearful and awesome. For the strongest penalties are applied to one who transgresses in this area – one could in theory receive either the death penalty or the heavenly punishment of kareth, spiritual excision, for mis-stepping in his close approach to God's domain.

Jewish kabbalistic tradition expresses holiness as possible perception of the soul, above all united to the body: hence the repeated allusion to the involvement of the supernal worlds in relation to the world of Assiah, so-called "material world". "Sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I am God your Lord": Sanctify yourselves— these are the "first waters" And be holy— these are the "last waters".[4] "Sanctify yourselves" means to take the initiative and work to become holy. Afterwards, "be holy"— strengthen yourself to maintain your level of holiness.[5]

The Kedushah prayerEdit

Kedushah is the name of several prayers recited during Jewish prayer services. They have in common the recitation of two Biblical verses - Isaiah 6:3 and Ezekiel 3:12. These verses come from prophetic visions in which angels sing the verses as praises to God.

There exist several variations of the Kedushah, which appear in different contexts and have different laws. The best-known Kedushah is recited in the Amidah. Another is recited in the Yotzer ohr blessing, and a third (known as Kedushah d'sidra) is recited on various occasions including the conclusion of weekday Shacharit. In some versions of the kedushah, additional Biblical verses are added in the same format as the verses from Isaiah and Ezekiel.[6][7]

Kedushah in the AmidahEdit

The Kedushah is traditionally the third section of all Amidah recitations. In the silent Amidah it is a short prayer, but in the repetition, which requires a minyan, it is considerably lengthier. The recitation of Kedushah on a daily basis is a Babylonian custom; in classical Israel, the repetition of the Amidah would usually not include Kedushah, with Kedushah added only on special occasions.[8] The liturgy varies among different communities and during different services, but they all hold in common three Bible verses (though translations vary):

קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ ה' צְבָאוֹת מְלֹא כָל הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ
Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh Adonai Tz'vaot M'lo Khol Ha'aretz K'vodo
"Holy, Holy, Holy, The Lord of Hosts, The entire world is filled with His Glory." Isaiah 6:3
בָּרוּךְ כְּבוֹד ה' מִמְּקוֹמוֹ
Baruch K'vod Adonai Mim'komo
"Blessed is the Glory of the Lord in Its Place" Ezekiel 3:12
יִמְלֹךְ ה' לְעוֹלָם. אֱלֹהַיִךְ צִיּוֹן לְדֹר וָדֹר. הַלְלוּיָהּ
Yimloch Adonai L'Olam, Elohayich Tziyon L'dor Vador Hall'luyah
"The Lord shall reign forever, Your God, O Zion, from generation to generation, Hallelujah" Psalms 146:10

All three of the verses cited above are recited as part of the congregational response to the cantor. For the first verse, Isaiah 6:3, it is traditional for everyone to rise to their toes with each recitation of the word קָדוֹשׁkadosh ('holy').[9]

In the Musaf services of Shabbat and Festivals, and in some communities in the morning service as well, an enhanced version of the Kedushah is recited, with additional praises in between the biblical verses. In the Mussaf service of Shabbat and Festivals, a fourth verse is added as well: the opening line of the Shema. The opening line of the Shema is included as well in the Keduashah on Neilah on Yom Kippur, and in the Ashkenazic rite (including the Chasidic rite) in all of the Kedushahs of Yom Kippur,

During the Kedushah of the Amidah, prayer participants are expected to stand.

Kedushah is recited whenever the Amidah is repeated - that is to say, in Shacharit, Mincha, Mussaf, and Neilah, but not Maariv.

Kedushah in Yotzer OhrEdit

A second Kedushah is recited as part of the Yotzer ohr blessing, before the Shema. The only two verses recited here are Isaiah 6:3 and Ezekiel 3:12.

Early sources dispute whether this kedushah may be recited by individuals praying without a minyan. The Shulchan Aruch records this dispute, and permits individuals to recite it even alone, but recommends that they recite it in the Torah reading chant, so that it is akin to Torah study rather than a kedushah recitation. The Rema, recording Ashkenazi practice, permits individuals to recite the kedushah without the Shulchan Aruch's recommendation.[10]

Kedushah d'sidraEdit

There is also a text called the Kedushah D'Sidra (Hebrew: קְדֻשָּׁה דְּסִידְרָא‎) which is recited at the conclusion of weekday morning services, at the beginning of the afternoon services of Shabbat and Festivals, the conclusion of the evening service of Saturday night, and the beginning of the Neilah service at the end of Yom Kippur.

This Kedushah contains three verses. The first two are the usual Isaiah 6:3 and Ezekiel 3:12. The third verse is Exodus 15:18 (which is similar but not identical to Psalms 146:10, recited in the Amidah Kedushah). After each Biblical verse is recited in Hebrew, its Aramaic translation (Targum) is recited. This Kedushah does not require a minyan.[11]

Sources and historyEdit

Kedushah is mentioned in several sources from the Talmudic period. The earliest source is the Tosefta, which says:

Rabbi Yehudah would answer with the blesser: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the entire world is full of His honor' and 'Blessed is the honor of the Lord from His place'.[12] The Talmud states that the Great Assembly established "blessings, prayers, kedushot, and havdalot",[13] but Rashi argues that the word "kedushot" here refers to kiddush rather than to Kedushah. Hekhalot Rabbati describes the angels praising God using the verses Isaiah 6:3, Ezekiel 3:12, Psalms 146:10; and the Jewish people reciting the verses "in Shacharit and Mincha".[14] Similarly, the Talmud describes the angels reciting Isaiah 6:3 and Ezekiel 3:12, and Jews reciting at least the first of those verses:
Three groups of ministering angels say song each day; one says 'Holy', one says 'Holy', one says 'Holy is the Lord of hosts'. ... The ministering angels do not say song above until Israel says it below ... But there is [also the verse] 'Blessed'! - It is [a different group of angels, the] ofanim, who say [that verse]...[15]

The accepted custom was to recite Kedushah in every Shacharit and Mincha Amidah repetition. However, Jews of the Land of Israel in this period only recited the Kedushah of the Amidah on special days - either Shabbat,[16] or on any day Mussaf is recited as well as Hanukkah.[17] Similarly, they recited the Kedushah of Yotzer Ohr only on such special occasions,[18] and some communities may not have recited it at all.[19]

In other religionsEdit

The first Biblical verse in the Kedushah, Isaiah 6:3, is also found in the Sanctus of some Christian liturgical ordinaries.


  1. ^ Blue Letter Bible. "H6944 - qodesh - Strong's Hebrew Lexicon (HNV)". Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  2. ^ Mishnah Kelim, chapter 1
  3. ^ Mishna, Shabbat 7:2
  4. ^ Talmud, Berakhot 53b ("Bereshit" and "Tzimtzum": Avir (Judaism))
  5. ^ Likutey Halakhot II, p. 69a
  6. ^ On the origins of the Kedushah, see David Flusser, “Sanctus und Gloria,” in Abraham Unser Vater: Juden und Christen im Gespräch Über die Bibel Festschrift für Otto Michael (ed. Otto Betz, Martin Hengel, and Peter Schmidt; Leiden: Brill, 1963), 129-152; repr. in David Flusser, Entdeckungen im Neuen Testament (2 vols.; Neukirchener, 1987-1999), 1:226-244. For an English translation of this article, click here.
  7. ^ קווי יסוד להתהוותה של הקדושה וגיבושה.
  8. ^ Masekhet Soferim, Chapter 20.
  9. ^ Scott-Martin Kosofsky, The Book of Customs, Harper San Francisco, 2004; page 33.
  10. ^ Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 59:3
  11. ^ Hammer, Rabbi Reuven (2003). Or Chadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals. New York City: Rabbinical Assembly/United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. p. 227. ISBN 0-916219-20-8.
  12. ^ Tosefta Brachot 1:11
  13. ^ Brachot 33a
  14. ^ Hekhalot Rabbati 10:5
  15. ^ Chullin 91b
  16. ^ Tosafot Sanhedrin 37b (s.v. mikanaf) in the name of the geonim
  17. ^ Soferim 20:5; Kobetz Hitzei Giborim - Pleitat Sofrim 10 (Nisan 2017), p. 263, text: לפי שבארץ ישראל בזמן הקדום לא היו אומרים קדושה בימות החול, אלא בשבת ויום טוב ור"ח וחנוכה בלבד, see also footnote 4
  18. ^ Ezra Fleischer, HaYotzrot beHithavyutan veHitpatchutan (Jerusalem, 1984), p. 7
  19. ^ Ezra Fleischer, לתפוצתן של קדושת העמידה והיוצר במנהגות התפילה של ארץ ישראל, Tarbitz 38:266

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