The idea of “Holy” has real meaning when understanding righteousness part 1


Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this nobody has any right to but himself. The labor of his body and the work of his hands are properly his. Whatsoever he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labor with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.

It being by him removed from the common state nature has placed it in, it has by this labor something annexed to it, that excludes other men’s common right. This labor being the unquestionable property of the laborer, no man but he can have a right to what is once joined, at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others.

So says John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government, chapter 5, section 27. The question is, what does this have to do with the concept of “Holy,” and the precepts of Torah? Although John Locke quotes Torah and Gospel, he is a protestant whose work is political philosophy published anonymously in 1689. He is not, nor does he claim to be a theologian. Still, he summarizes nicely what the word “Holy,” means.

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One idea of what “Holy means comes from the Navy with its quarter-deck. The quarter deck is “holy ground.” Why is it holy and what makes it holy? The captain of the ship said so, because the navy has a tradition of declaring a certain part of the ship the quarter-deck holy, special. That is what it means and that it all it means, special. Why? Tradition says so. In Catholic tradition, “Holy” surely means far more.

As theologians, we parade around saying “Holy,” means to be separate from the common ground. The Hebrew, ללח means common or separated from the temple. It is interesting to note that the word קדוש does not appear in Genesis, and does not appear until Exodus 3. When it does appear, at the burning bush, God uses the term in a way that assumes Moses will understand what he means, even though the term is new, and has never been used, at least in Torah, before.

The story of the burning bush, Sinai, in Hebrew, must have been written at a later date, when the Jewish people had a clear understanding of what Holy meant. As to what the original readers would have understood by the term or the intermittent readers between then and now, would require further research, and may not be knowable at all.

How would Moses have understood the term? as the place where God was? God was speaking to him at the time. Of course he was present. If Holy is where God is, what does God mean when he says to be holy as he is Holy?

St. Matthew translates this concept into the Greek, κοινός/common. The Hebrew, ללח  shows how the Jewish community at the time of the Great Assembly and throughout the Second Temple period saw holiness and all that comes with it as being tied to the temple. As Israel wandered through the wilderness, they did not have a temple, so the understanding of Holy as being tied to the temple could not have been understood.

The idea of Holy as being tied to marriage also could not have been understood. The wedding contract does not come until Horeb with the giving of the Ten Commandments. What did God mean at Sinai? Further research is required.

John Locke explains, קדוש not only means, “separated from,” but more importantly, “separated to.” In Hebrew, קדוש also means, “To be married,” marriage contract language. The bride is separated from the common lot of mankind and separated to her בעל her husband.

Hebrew has another way of talking about man and wife, “בת זוג and בן זוג” the son and daughter of the pair. We are all children of God, of different sexes. We are members of one grander family formed by the bride of Christ to the grand Abba, the one who is to come, Haba, the Lamb of God, Bah, and who loves his children.

That is exactly what is going on through the Exodus story, and that is exactly what is going on through Torah with its Haggadah, and Halakha, story and walk. God takes his bride, Israel from the common lot of slavery in Egypt and brings her to Sinai where he marries her. In Jewish tradition, the marriage includes a contract. This is The Ten Words, the Ten Commandments.

If the traditional understanding of “Holy” is correct, and the words means, “Separated from,” the Deists who wrote our Constitution are right. God is some transcendent watchmaker who made his watch and now sits off at a distance and watches it tick. Our upper middle-class is well within its rights to build their gated communities and watch as the common lot of mankind devours itself as scrub cattle.

If the corrected understanding of “Holy,” is correct, if we are separated to…”

God is not only transcendent, but also imminent. His image is within each of us, as Genesis 1 tells us. God made us in his צַלְמ, which sounds like Shalom, and in his likeness, the feminine plural of blood, דְמוּתֵ. We are the imminence, the image, and likeness of God in this cosmos, which has the same root as cosmetology, that which makes beautiful.  Genesis 1 becomes the great literary landscape, the literary cover for the book we call Torah, explaining what the entire rest of Torah is going to be about. God hovers over wilderness and chaos, bringing order to the cosmos.

The Hebrew word for “Separate Ones,” is “Pharisee.” It follows that Hebrew has two words for “Separate,” one of which is Pharisee/פרוש/Perez. The other is צֶדֶקה which means “Holy.” Pharisee/פרוש/Perez mean separate from. צֶדֶקה/Holy means separate to, separate to God’s work of guarding and keeping his garden/his planet, which includes each other.

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