The words from “Kadosh” come from the daily prayer book, the morning service.
This is a text that's used throughout the year, not just on the High Holidays, not even just on Shabbat, but part of the daily morning service.
The blessing is known as YOTZER or YOTZER HA'ME'OROT, which means "former of the lights" or "the One who crafts the luminaries."
The chant begins with the words KULAM AHUVIM, KULAM BERURIM, KULAM GIBORIM.
So there's one word here repeated three times: KULAM, "All of them."
As in Kol Hai "all" in the plural.
And the three words that follow — AHUVIM, BERURUM, GIBORIM — begin with the first three letters of the alphabet.
AHUVIM "beloved." BERURIM "pure." GIBORIM "mighty." In the translation of Rabbi Marcia Prager "beloved, radiant, full of power."
The B part of the chant says KADOSH KADOSH KADOSH "holy holy holy." ADONAI TZEVAOT. "God of Forces." MELO CHOL HA'ARETZ CHEVODO. "The whole world is filled with God's presence."
The Yotzer section is talking about all of the beings of light, the radiant beings, that carry messages to and from the Infinite to the Immanent. From the Ultimate to the Relative or to this world.
So there are pictures here of angels, of MELACHIM, which literally means "messengers." These morning prayers invite us to connect with The Illumination of the world and beyond all worlds.
This prayer has multiple sections and it's quite long, even on the weekday version — it's expanded when we pray on Shabbat or on Holidays — and includes an alphabetic acrostic. The weekday version is one word for each of the letters of the Hebrew ALEPH-BET, which my band Darshan has made a video of. On Shabbat, a PIYYUT, a liturgical prayer is inserted known as EL ADON, which has a short line for each of the letters of the ALEPH-BET and I recorded that on my album "Lah."
Here we chant just these three words, ALEF, BET, GIMEL, or A-B-C, so to speak, which leaves space for our hearts and our imaginations to fill in all of the qualities of these beings that are carrying messages back and forth between the worlds.
The B part: "Holy Holy Holy, Shaper of the powers of the universe, the whole earth radiates Your glory."
This line comes from Isaiah, chapter six, and it's so powerful it's repeated twice in the service, once here in this place, known as the KEDUSHA SHEL YESHIVAH, or "the sanctification while seated" and later in the standing prayer, the AMIDAH, as we lift up on our toes three times as if to imitate or join in the angelic chorus.
In the scroll, in the paradigm of biblical Hebrew, there's no way to bold or underline or highlight a word except through repetition. We know the omnimportance of the text. The rabbinic tradition has created worlds of meaning out of the presence or absence of a letter, of the smallest diacritical marks. So when we have the repetition of the word, it is a strengthening or an underlining or an emphasis of this concept. I know of no other place in the whole canon of biblical literature that a word is repeated three times.
KADOSH KADOSH KADOSH "Holy, Holy, Holy!"
Now taken once, this word means distinguished or separate. The idea of holiness has to do with something that is sanctified or set apart. When a couple comes together in marriage, the KIDDUSHIN, their wedding, is making this relationship distinct from all others. One use of the word KADOSH is already a very powerful value concept.
But the repetition — KADOSH KADOSH, "holy holy" — it's an exultation, it's an explosion of meaning. If we were talking about the holiness of the Creator, it's above and beyond, even our conceptions of holiness. It's above and beyond that. It's holier than holy.
And this third KADOSH, when KADOSH comes a third time, it's a total ecstatic surrender. It's as though language no longer suffices to express the kind of sanctity that we are that we're connecting with.
Now, these words of course are put in our mouths through the prophet Isaiah, reporting something Isaiah overheard as though eavesdropping on the angelic world,the world of those messengers of light.
Towards the end of the song you can hear me DAVVENEN/praying a bunch of words
and I want to read two translations, one by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and one by Rabbi Marcia Prager. These words immediately proceed the prayer KULAM AHUVIM.
Sacks: "May You be blessed, Our Rock, King and Redeemer, Creator of holy beings. May Your name be praised forever, Our King, Creator of the ministering angels, All of whom stand in the universe's heights proclaiming together in awe, aloud, the words of the living God, the eternal King."
And here is Rabbi Marcia Prager's translation.
"You are a fountain of blessings, creator of the angelic realm, the celestial choir that stands in the cosmic heights proclaims your words with awe."
So [with] this liturgy the rabbis invite us in to eavesdrop on the angels and to hear what they're saying. These messengers are described as beloved, pure, radiant. And their role in holding aloft the throne of glory, so to speak.
Whether this brings about for you images of winged beings, or clouds, or somehow the gravitational force that keeps the atmosphere blue and radiant, and this air breathable. There's this conversation, this cosmic conversation going on, the ecstasy of these beings is Holy Holy Holy. Wow. Wow. Wow.
ADONAI TZEVAOT this is a particular appellation of the Divine Reb Marcia translates as Shaper of the Powers of the universe. TZEVAOT is like a force, an army. It's homophonic with the word for color. עבצ God in the multiplicity of frequencies and possibilities.
MELO CHOL HA'ARTEZ “the entire world is full of Your presence.” These very refined, these ultra-fine beings having an experience of recognition of the Divine are saying everywhere is full of God's presence. LEIT ATAR PANUI MINEI. “There is no place devoid of God's Presence.” Even in that subtlest of ecstasy, we join saying, here and now, the fullness of earth is God's presence.
There is no one, no time, no thing, no place that isn't being carried aloft by these beings of light.
So the idea that this prayer is said at one point in the service seated and then another point standing, could be understood as a practice instruction that as we go about our day, as we wash the dishes, as we sweep the floor, as we're deep in our personal practices of meditation or yoga or prayer or service, and when we're in the most ordinary moments of “carry water, chop wood,” God is there too.
The invitation of this traditional text, and Isaiah's prophecy, and this song is to join along with that chorus.
To be astonished beyond words.
To live holy and sacred lives, to live lives of "Wow."
And to recognize that for all beings.
KULAM AHUVIM, KULAM BERURIM, KULAM GIBURIM.
May you all feel loved.
May you all feel clear.
May you all feel strong.