Parshas Shemini - Why do we refer to Hashem as הקדוש ברוך הוא?

The passuk says in this week’s sedrah

וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל אַהֲרֹן הוּא אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר ה' לֵאמֹר בִּקְרֹבַי אֶקָּדֵשׁ וְעַל פְּנֵי כָל הָעָם אֶכָּבֵד וַיִּדֹּם אַהֲרֹן

And Moshe said to Aharon, “This is what Hashem spoke saying, ‘Through those that are close to me I will be sanctified and before all the people I will be honoured.” And Aharon was silent.
Rashi on this passuk brings the gemara in Zevachim (115b) which says

והיינו דא"ר חייא בר אבא א"ר יוחנן מאי דכתיב (תהלים ס"ח, ל"ו) נורא אלקים ממקדשך אל תיקרי ממקדשך אלא ממקודשיך בשעה שעושה הקב"ה דין בקדושיו מתיירא ומתעלה ומתהלל

Rabbi Chiya bar Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan, “What does the passuk in Tehillim mean when it says, נוֹרָא אֱלֹהִים מִמִּקְדָּשֶׁיךָ? Do not readממקדשך  (from your sanctuary), rather read ממקודשיך (from your sanctified ones). When Hashem applies justice to His holy ones, He is feared and He is elevated and He is praised, [because people say if so with tzadikim, all the more so with reshaim.]

The passuk in Tehillim which is brought by the gemara concludes

נוֹרָא אֱלֹקִים מִמִּקְדָּשֶׁיךָ אֵל יִשְׂרָאֵל הוּא נֹתֵן עֹז וְתַעֲצֻמוֹת לָעָם בָּרוּךְ אֱלֹקִים

Hashem You are fearful from your sanctuary. The G-d of the benei yisrael, He gives strength and wealth to the people, blessed is Hashem.
  • If the beginning of the passuk refers to Hashem applying justice to tzadikim, from which we learn that Hashem will apply justice to the reshaim, why does the passuk continue with a description of how Hashem is kind to the benei yisrael (and not with a description of how Hashem metes out judgement to the reshaim)?

We say in the hagaddah

בָּרוּךְ שׁומֵר הַבְטָחָתו לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, בָּרוּךְ הוּא. שֶׁהַקָּדושׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא חִשַּׁב אֶת הַקֵּץ, לַעֲשׂות כְּמו שֶּׁאָמַר לְאַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ בִּבְרִית בֵּין הַבְּתָרִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, וַיּאמֶר לְאַבְרָם, יָדע תֵּדַע כִּי גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ בְּאֶרֶץ לא לָהֶם, וַעֲבָדוּם וְעִנּוּ אתָם אַרְבַּע מֵאות שנה. וְגם אֶת הַגּוי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲבדוּ דָּן אָנכִי וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן יֵצְאוּ בִּרְכֻשׁ גָּדול.
וְהִיא שֶׁעָמְדָה לַאֲבותֵינוּ וְלָנוּ שֶׁלּא אֶחָד בִּלְבָד עָמַד עָלֵינוּ לְכַלּותֵנוּ אֶלָּא שֶׁבְּכָל דּור וָדור עומְדִים עָלֵינוּ לְכַלותֵנוּ וְהַקָּדושׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַצִּילֵנוּ מִיָּדָם.

Blessed is He who keeps his promise to the benei yisrael, blessed is He. Because Hashem calculated the end, in order to keep the promise he made to Avraham in the ברית בין הבתרים, as the passuk says, “And He said to Avram, ‘You should surely know that your children will be sojourners in a land that does not belong to them. And the people of the land will enslave them and will afflict them for four hundred years. And also the people whom they serve I will judge, and afterwards they will go out with great wealth.”

And this has stood for our forefathers and for us, because not only one stood against us to destroy us, rather in every generation they stand against us to destroy us and Hashem saves us from their hands.
  • Why does the בעל ההגדה here use the Name הקדוש ברוך הוא to refer to Hashem (as opposed to the Name המקום which is used with the ארבע בנים or the Name ה' אלוקינו which is used with עבדים היינו)?

The Vilna Gaon explains as follows:

The Name הקדוש, for Hashem, refers to the מדת הדין. This is because the word קדוש means separated (and not specifically - holy). Hashem does justice when He seeks to align people’s actions in עולם הזה with the correct order for things to happen in, which is determined by the truth that exists in עולם הבא. Since the truth which Hashem seeks to align the happenings in עולם הזה with is not of this world, but is rather the higher eternal truth, it is not always obvious to us in the short term how the justice of Hashem can lead to the best outcome. Therefore when Hashem applies His justice we refer to Hashem as הקדוש. Since Hashem is entirely separated from the influence of עולם הזה, therefore through His justice, He aligns us with a greater truth which is beyond our limited comprehension.

On the other hand, the Name ברוך הוא refers to Hashem giving blessing and kindness to the world, whereupon he is called by everyone – ברוך – because Hashem is the מקור הברכות.

The reason that we call Hashem הקדוש ברוך הוא is because each Name is insufficient without the other. We believe that Hashem is acting fairly when He applies justice (הקדוש) because we know that He is the source of all blessings (ברוך הוא). And we believe that Hashem’s kindness is true and can only lead to good things (ברוך הוא) because we know that Hashem leads us towards the eternal and just truth (הקדוש).

Because the benei yisrael were unfairly enslaved by מצרים, who claimed to be justified in enslaving them (as you see in the passuk - הָבָה נִתְחַכְּמָה לוֹ פֶּן יִרְבֶּה וְהָיָה כִּי תִקְרֶאנָה מִלְחָמָה וְנוֹסַף גַּם הוּא עַל שֹׂנְאֵינוּ וְנִלְחַם בָּנוּ וְעָלָה מִן הָאָרֶץ), they understood that justice cannot be understood from a perspective of עולם הזה alone, and it is only Hashem’s true justice, which was meted out to מצרים, which enforces absolute truth and correctness.

When the benei yisrael reached this insight, they were given great wealth, because they would now understand how to use their wealth in accordance with the justice of the Torah.

That is why the בעל ההגדה uses the Name הקדוש ברוך הוא in this part of the hagaddah, הקדוש refers to Hashem’s overriding justice, and ברוך הוא refers to the wealth that the benei yisrael were given when they perceived the truth of Hashem’s laws.

Based on this understanding, we can explain the continuation of the passuk in Tehillim as follows

נוֹרָא אֱלֹקִים מִמִּקְדָּשֶׁיךָ אֵל יִשְׂרָאֵל הוּא נֹתֵן עֹז וְתַעֲצֻמוֹת לָעָם בָּרוּךְ אֱלֹקִים

When we see the fearsome truth of Hashem’s judgement, which can even be applied to tzadikim, we understand that our timebound understanding of justice is insufficient, and we must adhere to the halachos of the Torah. In this case we merit strength and wealth, because Hashem knows that we will use them correctly.

This is why the gemara in Zevachim uses the Name הקדוש ברוך הוא (בשעה שעושה הקב"ה דין בקדושיו), because by accepting the ultimate extent of Hashem’s justice (הקדוש) we merit the ultimate ברכה (ברוך הוא).


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