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The third bracha of Shemoneh Esrei, where we proclaim to Hashem that “You are Holy,” and conclude with blessing Hashem for being the “Almighty Who is Holy,” is somewhat peculiar. In all the ensuing blessings, we thank Hashem for gifts that He gives us, such as knowledge, forgiveness, health, our livelihood and peace. However, in this blessing, what is the meaning behind us thanking Hashem for being the Holy G-d?

One approach is that this blessing follows logically after the previous blessing where we thanked Him for the eventual redemption, for what happens after techias hameisim. The Gemara informs us, “Tzaddikim yoshvim va-atroseihem b’rosheihem v’ne-henin m’ziv haShechina.” The righteous sit with crowns on their heads and benefit from the radiance of the Divine Presence. Thus, the pleasure after the resurrection is that we will bask in the myriads of pleasures of Hashem’s Holiness. This is why we thank Hashem now for being the Holy G-d.


There is another reason. In the blessings of Krias Shema in the evening, we say lehishtabei’ach bi’sehilasecha, we boast about ourselves with Your praise. This means the greatness of Hashem makes us special for we are His chosen people. Thus, since Hashem is holy, that means that we are worthy of holiness since we are His children.

Finally, Hashem’s manifestations of holiness serve as a model for how we can be holy. As the posuk directs us, “Kodoshim tihiyu, ki kadosh Ani Hashem – You should be holy, for I Hashem am holy.” To bring this from the theoretical to the practical, the Olas Tamid cites the Yaros Devash who quotes the Ramban that the word kadosh means ‘to separate oneself.’ In this vein, it means to abstain from even that which is permitted even in a miniscule way. This is the road to Holiness for as the Ramban elaborates, if one just grabs at every permissible pleasure, he can deteriorate to what is called a nuvul b’reshus haTorah, one who is vile even though he is within all the parameters of the law. Therefore, one who pushes away the last few bites of a delicious dessert or denies himself a few extra moments of delicious sleep is fulfilling the positive commandment of v’hiskadishtem v’hyisem kedoshim, you should sanctify yourself and become holy.” One can take very small baby-steps in this area and yet achieve great results.

The first blessing corresponded to Avraham, as it concludes Magen Avraham. The second blessing which talks about Hashem’s might, how He sustains life, gives us powerful winds and rains, and will eventually revive the dead, corresponds to Yitzchak, who’s special midah was gevurah. The third blessing of Kedusha corresponds to Yaakov who we describe in our bentching with the description kedosheinu kadosh Yaakov. This is actually describing Hashem, but we refer to Hashem as our Holy One, the Holiness of Yaakov. Why do we refer to Yaakov as being Holy, more than Avraham and Yitzchak? The commentaries explain that if one has suffering like Yaakov, rachmama l’tzlan, whose brother Eisav wanted to kill him, whose grandchild Elifaz wanted to kill him, whose father-in-law wanted to kill him, whose daughter Dina was violated, whose son Yosef went missing for twenty-two years, and yet with all of these travails he served Hashem loyally, such a person is a true Kadosh.

In a similar vein, we are taught that those who perished in the Holocaust because they were Jewish are called kedoshim (Rambam), but those who lived through the horrors of the Holocaust losing spouses and family and living day after day in the shadow of the gas chambers while being tortured with slave labor and fed soup with dead mice and spiders and other vermin, and yet went on to serve Hashem loyally afterwards, they are called Kadosh Kadoshim, Holy of Holies.

We go on to say in the blessing, “U’kedoshim b’chol yom yahalelulcha selah – And holy ones everyday praise You.” The Iyun Tefillah says that this refers to the angels. The Advudrahan says that it refers to us Jews who are Am Kedoshecha, Your Holy nation. The Lekutei Torah says a third explanation. He says it refers to the holy souls that are already in the Next World for, unlike the angels who still have a confining body, they who are pure souls have even greater Holiness when they sing the praises of Hashem.

In the merit of our recognizing and expressing Hashem’s greatness, may Hashem shower us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.


Transcribed and edited by Shelley Zeitlin.


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