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R. Steven Bernstein

The concept of sacredness is somewhat of an anathema to 21st century American culture. In our rugged individualism, we tend to treat most everything with equal disdain. So the idea that something is sacred simply tends to not work. However, Hashem tells us quite explicitly that sacredness is an important part of our lives. Sacredness, from the Hebrew root kadash, means something that is set apart for Hashem. Hashem first sanctified, that is made sacred, time. Hashem sanctified the seventh day, he made it holy, and Shabbat, sprang into being. A day is a measure of time, so time itself was made holy. A further expansion of this we can see in Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28 – 29 with the commandments of the Moadim, the sacred times. These times are given to us to be treated differently, set apart for Hashem. They are sacred.

Hashem also commanded us to recognize sacred space. The space of the Mishkan, the tabernacle, was to be treated differently than the areas around it. The altar, the tent of meeting, the Heichal (the holy place), the kodesh hakodeshim (the holy of holies), all had specific regulations about their space. Hashem instructed us to bring the sacrifices “in the place that I will show you.” The final place that Hashem showed us is the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and so Solomon built the Temple there. In this way Hashem sanctified space, certain spaces were assigned for Him.

Hashem also set apart certain objects as being sacred. Within the Temple were many sacred objects, including, the Ark of the covenant, the jar of manna, Aharon’s staff, the Torah scroll, the Menorah, the bread of faces, the golden altar, and the altar. There were also many utensils used in the Temple complex. These were anointed with oil and thereby made sacred. In this way Hashem made certain objects sacred.

Today, we have many of these sacred things that we deal with through the year. And yet, we frequently forget the nature of their sacredness. Many of us treat Shabbat as simply the day that we come to Synagogue, forgetting that Synagogue should be part of our daily life, not only Shabbat. Shabbat is much more than that. Shabbat is time set aside by Hashem, it is sacred, set apart, and should be treated with reverence. The same is true of all the Moadim. They are sacred and should be treated reverently. (Reverence does not mean somberness, but that is the subject of another blog.)

Tzitzit are sacred. Hashem commands men to wear Tzitzit, the only sacred article of clothing, so that we will see them and remember all of Hashem’s commandments. We are to treat them with reverence. They are not a costume. They have sacred purpose, sacred meaning. Tzitzit set us apart, make us a holy nation. They are more than a Jewish garment, they are a commandment from Hashem.

There are 3 objects that we have that actually contain the tetragrammaton. These objects are holy unto themselves, they are set apart and sacred. They are the Torah scroll, the mezuzah, and tefillin. Each of these objects is sacred and should be treated with reverence. They contain the holy Name, and must not be treated casually (in vain.) These things are not curiosities. They must not be treated as refrigerator magnets. They are not cute. These objects are the fulfillment of commandments of Hashem. To not treat them with reverence is to slap our Messiah in the face.

We have seen such affronts as people wrapping themselves in the Torah scroll, people dancing a hoochie dance with Tzitzit, etc. We must cry out against these things. If we do not understand the nature of the sacred, we cannot understand the reverence with which that which is sacred must be treated. If we do not understand the sacred, if we do not recognize the sacred, we do not recognize Hashem.

Sun, November 28 2021 24 Kislev 5782