Most Sacred in Judaism

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Question: What is the most sacred thing in Judaism?

Rabbi: We must always first define our terms. “Sacred” in Judaism refers to what is most important in man’s relationship with God. Therefore, God is the most sacred thing, or that which is most holy. Angels refer to God as holy:

And one would call to the other, “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord of Hosts, His presence fills all the earth! (Isaiah 6:3)

Targum Yonasan (Ibid.) explains:

And one cried unto another, and they were saying, Holy in the highest and exalted heavens is the house of His dwelling, holy upon the earth is the work of His might, holy forever without end, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of the brightness of His glory.

Isaiah teaches that God is distinct (holy) in the metaphysical world: He is unlike angels. He is distinct on Earth where He displays His might, but he is incomparable to anything earthly. And He is this way (holy) eternally, as God does not change.  Thus, in both areas of  creation—the metaphysical heavens, and on Earth—God is distinct and unknowable, and He is so eternally. 

The entire focus of Judaism is God. This is because Judaism is all about grasping reality and appreciating the brilliance in all we see in the universe and learn in Torah. And since God is the author of both, He is the most sacred part of Judaism.

Our Shmoneh Essay prayers’ first section also concludes with “God is Holy.” This means that God is unknowable. He is distinct from human knowledge; our minds can’t grasp His nature, as God told Moses, “For man cannot know me while alive” (Exod. 33:20). This prayer culminates with God's unknowable nature, to remove man from viewing God wrongly, in utilitarian terms, generated by God's assistance of the Patriarchs. While it is true that God helps man, that is not His definition. We must claim complete ignorance of God's nature, so we conclude with "You are holy."  

If one has no concept of God, nothing else can be sacred. God is the substratum of all that is holy. Without Bible’s determination of what is sacred, all men will argue their subjective views of what is sacred, relying only on their imagination and emotions. This conflict will destroy societies and families. But with the objective definition that God is most sacred (the only authority), and that we define God as the sole Creator, the one who gave mankind His Bible and no other religion, all disputes are put to rest. There is societal harmony. There is peace. And this forms a backdrop for man’s study of God’s will. Prophets state that one day, all nations will recognize Bible as God’s only religion. There will be global harmony. What an amazing time that will be.

Without knowledge of God, one truly knows nothing. So in man’s pursuit of knowledge, he must recognize God, otherwise all his knowledge is false. God is therefore the most sacred part of Judaism.