Yisro – Heilige (Kadosh)

This week’s Haftorah of Yisro begins with Yeshayahu having a revelation of the Heavenly Court: “In the year of the death of King Uzziah, I saw Hashem sitting on a high and exalted throne, and His lower extremity filled the Temple. Seraphim (angels) stood above for Him, six wings, six wings to each one; with two he would cover his face, and with two he would cover his legs, and with two he would fly” (Yeshayahu 6:1, 2).
The next pasuk is one of the most famous verses in all of Na”ch; we say it at least four times a day in our prayers, and it is one of the ultimate sanctification of Hashem’s Name: “And one will call another and say: Holy, holy, holy is Hashem, Master of Legions, the whole world is filled with His glory” (Yeshayahu 6, 3).There are many explanations of why the word “holy” is said three times. The Targum Yonasan, which we say every day in Uva Litzion, says that the first holy refers to: “Holy in the most exalted heaven, the abode of His Presence.” The second holy refers to: “Holy on earth, product of His strength.” The third holy refers to: “Holy forever and ever is Hashem, Master of Legions, the entire world is filled with radiance of His glory.” Another interpretation listed by the Radak is that each holy refers to three worlds: The upper world which is comprised of angels and souls, the outer world, which is comprised of the planets and stars, and the lower world which is this world. The most honorable in this world is man, and this is saying that Hashem who is holy, exalted, and elevated above all three worlds, is sanctified and exalted in the two upper worlds as well as in the lower world by man.

There is a medrish which says that the angels say kadosh all at the same time, for if one would start before the rest he would immediately be burnt up from the heat of his mouth. The Chofetz Chaim points out that there is no mention of the one who starts late. He says it must be that because of all the drive the angels have to sanctify Hashem’s Holy Name in the celestial sphere then there is only an issue of starting early; no one would start late. Angels act with zeal (zrizus) and there is a deep moral lesson (mussar haskel) we can take away from them.

Along these lines we find a very simple but profound understanding of this pasuk in the first interpretation of the Radak. The Radak says: “I heard that each saraf (angel) would call to each other and they would speak to each other in a motivating manner (derech ziruz). They would call each other ‘Kadosh, Kadosh’ like a person would say to his friend ‘sir, sir’ and they would announce ‘sanctify Hashem’s name together.’ Then they would say, ‘Holy is Hashem, Master of Legions, for He is the master of legions on high and the legions below. The whole world is filled with His glory, for He created everything and upon everything any logical thinking being shall glorify Him.’” (Click here and here for Hebrew text.)

There is a misnomer that zrizus refers to performing mitzvos quickly, with zeal, without wasting time. That is not entirely accurate. Zrizus is better defined as alacrity, doing something in a timely and optimal manner not too slow but not too fast, just at the right time in a manner which is thorough and accurate. This takes motivation, whether self-motivation or motivation by others to be sure it is done correctly.

In our case we find that the angels motivate each other to act in unison to praise Hashem. Angels are intelligent beings who are simply so close to Hashem that their fear of Hashem is so constant that they realize, as clear as day, that they should always be doing the right thing. It would seem, though, that with their zeal to want to do the right thing there are times when a false start might happen and consequences are paid. In order to motivate each other to start in unison, a call to attention before they start praising Hashem, they first call each other and announce that the time has come to praise Hashem.

If one looks closely at how this is done, the angels don’t say to each other ‘Michoel, Gavriel, Rephael get ready get set go!’ Rather, they speak to each other with respect, calling each other “Kadosh” (Holy). This seems to be an extra added motivator to act with zrizus and start in unison.

Angels are constantly self-motivated to serve Hashem with alacrity, through their fear of the awesomeness of Hashem’s Glory. Being that they are so close to Him, it is undeniable; but it would seem that added motivation is needed when praising Hashem to do it in unison, and the best motivation is positive reinforcement, treating one another with respect.

All the more so we can learn from the angels that when we want someone to do something for us or we want to motivate others to serve Hashem properly we should show proper respect to them. Refer to them as Mr., Mrs., Dr., Rabbi, or My Brother or My Sister, etc.; by speaking to them in a formal manner they will be more attentive and moved to listen to what you have to say.