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Kadosh Torah Shabbat Mitzvah Tefilah Teshuvah Tikkun Olam + 1 more important term Seven Key Jewish Spiritual Terms

Seven Key Jewish Spiritual Terms - Amazon S3...JEWISH SPIRITUALITY FOR CHRISTIANS Seven Key Jewish Spiritual Terms Kadosh Torah Shabbat Mitzvah Tefilah Teshuvah Tikkun Olam (+ one

Jun 12, 2020



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  • Kadosh Torah Shabbat Mitzvah Tefilah Teshuvah Tikkun Olam + 1 more important term

    Seven Key Jewish Spiritual Terms




    Seven Key Jewish Spiritual Terms

    Kadosh Torah

    Shabbat Mitzvah Tefilah

    Teshuvah Tikkun Olam

    (+ one more important term)

    In presenting this resource, we wish to thank our beloved teacher, Rabbi Arthur Green, whose work has inspired and guided this and other key elements of the H2H project. Please see our additional resources at the end of this document.

  • Questions for Reflection & Discussion:

    What is one place or time in which you feel a sense of holiness?

    How might you cultivate this same feeling in a different area of your life?

    Holy or Set Aside

    The primary reference point for holiness in Judaism is “The Blessed Holy One,” Ha-Kadosh Barukh Hu, the favorite rabbinic name for God. Since the Divine is the ultimate source of holiness, the word kadosh carries with it a sense of mystery, grandeur, and transcendence. And yet, we are also told that as human beings we too can, and must, strive to live holy lives (Leviticus 19:2) by dedicating ourselves to God (and thus “setting ourselves aside”) and “walking in God’s ways” (Deuteronomy 5:33). Prayer, care for the oppressed and the stranger, observance of Shabbat, tending to the widow and the orphan, celebrating the bounty of the earth, and establishing just courts of law are all ways we strive to fashion lives of kedushah, holiness. Interestingly, several Jewish religious practices derive their names from the word kadosh, including kiddush (the Sabbath blessing over wine or grape juice) and kiddushin (the wedding ceremony). The quest for holiness in Judaism permeates all of life.

    Learn more at

    “God’s holiness may indeed be a mystery beyond us, but we realize it in this world by simple and concrete acts of holy living.”

    Rabbi Arthur Green These Are the Words, p. 131

    Kadosh (Ka-dosh)

  • Questions for Reflection & Discussion:

    What is the role of study in your faith journey?

    Who is one important teacher in your life—religious or secular?

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    “I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues, but most of all from my students.”

    Babylonian Talmud Tractate Ta’anit 7a

    Torah (Toh-rah)


    This term refers most narrowly to the Five Books of Moses or the Pentateuch, but more expansively to the whole Hebrew Bible (also referred to the Tanakh), and even more broadly to the entire tradition of Jewish wisdom, written and oral. The study of Torah is considered a sacred act, like prayer or charitable giving. Through the never-ending creative process of reading, translating, and interpreting sacred texts we renew Torah and our spirits, carefully discerning how we wish to live. This process involves an engaged conversation—head and heart—with voices across time and space, gleaning from the wisdom of the past as we face the challenges of the present and envision our future. It is customary to include in one’s early morning prayers a blessing for the gift of Torah in which the worshipper thanks God for the opportunity to be occupied or absorbed in words of Torah; the goal is not simply to “study” or “learn,” but to dive into these living waters.

  • Questions for Reflection & Discussion:

    Do you have any Sabbath traditions? How are they serving you? Are there any new practices you want to experiment with?

    Are there ideas or practices from the Sabbath that you might weave into your everyday life?

    Learn more at

    Shabbat (Shah-baht)


    This biblical institution is the first phenomenon referred to as kadosh in the Torah (Genesis 2:3). Surprisingly, it was not a person, a place, or a thing that was first deemed holy, but a time. According to the Bible, God sanctified the seventh day by resting after completing all of the work of creation. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (d. 1972) famously referred to the Sabbath as a “Palace in Time.” For centuries, Jews have observed Shabbat weekly from sunset on Friday to Saturday night. We do so both as a remembrance of creation and of the Exodus from Egyptian bondage (see Exodus 1-12). Shabbat is a time for rest, reflection, and celebration of the basic gifts of life; a time to be rather than to do. In our hectic post-modern world, Shabbat has helped spur renewed conversation about work, rest, and sustainability across different religious and cultural communities. What might our global society look like if more people were given structured time for relaxation, quiet reflection, communal celebration, enjoyment of nature, and conversation with loved ones?

    “The Sabbath is Judaism’s stillness at the heart of the turning world.”

    Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Radical Then, Radical Now, p. 130

  • Questions for Reflection & Discussion:

    How do you understand the term “commandment” as a Christian?

    What do you think of the image of God and human beings as “partners”?

    Learn more at


    Traditionally, a mitzvah is understood as a deed through which a person seeks to fulfill the Divine will. Inherent in this formulation is the theological assumption that there is a need for humans to do sacred work and that God has shown us the path. The ancient rabbis were so bold as to refer to human beings as God’s “partners” in the creation of a just and compassionate world. Throughout Jewish history there have been different attempts to enumerate the total number of mitzvot—positive and negative—a person can possibly carry out. The most common number given is 613. The motivation for such tallies is a desire to fashion a holistic way of living in covenantal relationship with God. It is this same desire that led to the development of halakhah (“the way”) or the extensive body of Jewish law that frames and informs the observance of mitzvot. A Jewish mystical tradition connects the Hebrew word mitzvah with the Aramaic word be-tzavta, meaning “together.” The kabbalists (Jewish mystics) understood this to mean that each mitzvah is an opportunity for God and the person to be joined together.

    Mitzvah (Meetz-vah)

    “Ben Azzai said: Be eager to fulfill even the smallest mitzvah and flee from transgression; for one mitzvah prompts another mitzvah, and one transgression prompts another transgression…”

    Pirkei Avot 4:2

  • Questions for Reflection & Discussion:

    Is there one prayer, poem, or refrain that is particularly important to you?

    What do you find most challenging about prayer? What do you find most rewarding?

    Learn more at

    Tefilah (T’fee-lah)


    There are two primary forms of prayer in Judaism: fixed (kevah) and spontaneous (kavannah); both have their roots in the Bible. Fixed verbal prayer developed significantly in post-biblical times, in part to replace the sacrificial system of the Temple after its destruction (for the second time) in 70 CE. Traditional Jews pray three times daily—morning, afternoon, and evening—and there are special prayers and services for Shabbat and other sacred times. Tefilah is often referred to as the “service of the heart.” Fixed prayer helps to maintain continuity from day to day and from generation to generation; spontaneous prayer allows us to express our own deepest hopes and yearnings every day of our lives. While one may pray alone, there are certain tefilot (prayers) that are customarily recited only with a quorum (minyan). This reflects the importance of both the individual and the community in the spiritual lives of Jews.

    “Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism and falsehood.”

    Abraham Joshua Heschel, Moral Grandeur & Spiritual Audacity, p. 262

  • Questions for Reflection & Discussion:

    What do think about the idea of “repentance” as “return”?

    Is there someone you need to reconcile with this week, month, or season? How will you go about doing so?

    Learn more at




    Since human beings are fallible, we need opportunities to forgive, to seek forgiveness, and to make amends. Our sages teach us that God actually created teshuvah before the world came into existence. That is to say, they could not imagine a world in which human beings could not reconcile with one another or with God. The High Holy Days—Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—are seen as a special season for teshuvah, as we begin a new Jewish year. However, we are also implored to engage in such acts every day when necessary. While often translated as “repentance,” teshuvah actually comes from the root word for “return,” indicating a belief in the essential goodness of people—who are created “in the Divine image” (Genesis 1:27)—even when we stray and act in sinful ways. Maimonides, the great medieval sage, taught that the highest form of teshuvah is when one has already faltered, and when faced with the same situation again willingly chooses to make a better choice.

    “‘Let’s move forward.’ Ban this phrase from your apologies. It’s code for ‘Let’s forget this ever happened.’ You have no right to make that request; the person you wronged gets to decide it’s time to move on. The sinner doesn’t have the prerogative to rush the forgiveness process.”

    Marjorie Ingall

  • Questions for Reflection & Discussion:

    Where do you experience life’s beauty and its brokenness?

    Are there particular justice causes that call you? Why? How have you responded?

    Repairing or Mending the World

    This ancient Hebrew term has evolved in its meaning over the centuries. In one ancient prayer, for example, it refers to a vision of the messianic age when God’s kingdom will be established on earth. The 16th-century mystic, Isaac Luria, used this term to develop a dramatic myth about the origins of the cosmos that involved a shattering of the original vessels of creation (hence the need for repair). In contemporary parlance, it is often used to describe engagement in a broad array of social and environmental justice causes, with or without reference to earlier definitions. Modern interpreters place particular emphasis on the need for both direct service and political advocacy. The term tikkun olam is part of a much larger Jewish ethical lexicon that includes such terms as tzedek (justice), derekh eretz (decency), and shalom, (peace). Regardless of how we understand this term, in order for it to be meaningful, we must recognize that the world is, in fact, broken, and that each of us has a role to play in mending it. The Hasidic masters teach that there are sparks of divine light that each of us—and only we—can uncover in the ongoing effort to mend the primordial breakage spoken of by Luria centuries ago.

    “If you see what needs to be repaired and how to repair it, then you have found a piece of the world that God has left for you to complete. But if you only see what is wrong and what is ugly in the world, then it is you yourself that needs repair.”

    Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn Sermon

    Learn more at

    Tikkun Olam (Tee-koon O-lahm)

  • Questions for Reflection & Discussion:

    How do you feel about the practice of limiting how one refers to God?

    What names for God do you find most meaningful at this stage of life? Has this changed significantly over time?

    Learn more at


    In the book of Exodus (3:15), God appears to Moses from within the Burning Bush to send forth the new prophet to redeem the Children of Israel. Moses is told that this is God’s name “forever,” but the word is written in such a way that it could also mean that it is “secret” or “hidden.” What is so mysterious about this name? It has no vowel markings, and no real constants. As Rabbi Arthur Green writes, “Y, H, and W are all blowing sounds, rushings of air through the mouth.” As if to say, this name is “so subtle it could slip away from you” – do not think that you can ever hold the Infinite in your “grasp.” God simply “is” what “is” and “will be” what “will be” (see Exodus 3:14). Rabbi Green also suggests that Y-H-W-H is intimately related to the Hebrew word HaWaYaH, meaning “being” or “existence,” since they share the same letters. Past, present, and future life all seem to be nested in this one mysterious name. So vaunted did this term become that it was not to be uttered but once a year by the high priest, in the inner-most sanctum of the Temple, on Yom Kippur. After the destruction of the Second Temple, the custom became to substitute Y-H-W-H (known as the “explicit” name of God) with other terms (like Adonai, “Lord”) whenever reading or speaking about the Divine.

    Y-H-W-H (not pronounced)

    “The praises of the Infinite can never be exhausted. Silence [therefore] is His most eloquent praise, since elaboration must leave glaring omissions.”

    Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki Commentary on Psalm 65:1

  • Photo Credit on Shabbat page: Shabbat: Inessa Akhmedova - slpn Po -

    For Further Reading

    To learn more about any of these terms, please visit the H2H website, where you will find a 10-part course entitled “The Foundations of Judaism.” Feel free to register for one, some, or all of these self-guided units, which include primary texts, guiding questions, journal exercises, and brief video reflections by Rabbi Green.

    At H2H, you will also discover other relevant resources, including musical meditations, scriptural commentaries, and poetic reflections on a variety of Jewish themes. Look out for new resources on the Book of Psalms, including a webinar series with Rabbi Or Rose.

    We also recommend the following two books by Rabbi Green, both of which we have drawn from in the creation of this and other H2H resources:

    These Are the Words: A Vocabulary of Jewish Spiritual Life (Jewish Lights)

    Judaism’s 10 Best Ideas: A Brief Guide for Seekers (Jewish Lights)

    Enjoy your learning!

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