Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin
Rabbi Yitschak RudominCourtesy

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Note: The following is the way I understood and applied Rav Yitzchok Hutner's words and ideas, it is not meant as a translation or definition of his works.

One of the most important concepts for Rav Yitzchok Hutner (1906–1980) was the word and notion of Kedusha (holiness/sacred) which does not exist in the secular world because it is a religious spiritual idea and phenomenon. Rav Hutner loved and stressed the words of Havdalah which is recited after Shabbos ends that says in its last blessing:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱ‑לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, הַמַּבְדִּיל בֵּין קֹדֶשׁ לְחוֹל, בֵּין אוֹר לְחשֶׁךְ, בֵּין יִשְׂרָאֵל לָעַמִּים, בֵּין יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי לְשֵׁשֶׁת יְמֵי הַמַּעֲשֶׂה: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', הַמַבְדִּיל בֵּין קֹדֶשׁ לְחוֹל

"Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who distinguishes between the sacred and the secular, between light and dark, between Israel and the nations, between the seventh day and the six days of labor. Blessed are You, LORD, Who distinguishes between the sacred and the secular." (Wikipedia's translation)

If anything, this encapsulates the essence of everything Rav Hutner was trying to achieve in America with his Americanized second generation Jewish idealistic American boys and young men who were learning Torah and Talmud in the Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin from the time he became a Rosh Yeshiva there from the mid 1930s to 1980 when he passed away.

What is this Kodesh that is so important and that is the distinguishing feature of Light, the Yisrael/the Jews and the Seventh Day/Shabbos? Where does it come from and where does it start? In the Torah, the first time something is mentioned is its starting point and from there it stretches to wherever it is mentioned and happens. Kedusha starts in Ma'aseh Breishis (Creation) as stated in the Sefer Breishis (Book of Genesis) when God introduces and describes Shabbos, the Seventh Day:

וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹהִים אֶת-יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי, וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתוֹ: כִּי בוֹ שָׁבַת מִכָּל-מְלַאכְתּוֹ, אֲשֶׁר-בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים לַעֲשׂוֹת.

"And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it [made it Holy/Sacred]; because that in it He rested from all His work which God in creating had made." (Genesis 2:3)

God's blessing of the Seventh Day and the mention that he made it Kadosh (Holy/Sacred) is the starting point for all subsequent Kedusha. Thus all Kedusha in the world and every time it is mentioned in the Torah is drawn from Kedushas Shabbos (Holiness/Sacredness of Shabbos). Creation is completed by Shabbos and the creation of Adam HaRishon (Adam, the first [Man]) who is placed in Gan Eden (Garden of Eden). Rav Hutner taught the statement of the Chazal (Jewish Sages); "Lo Nivra HaAdam Ela Lehisaneg Al HaShem" – "Man[kind] was created to only have pleasure from God" and this starts with Adam in the Garden of Eden enjoying the holiness of Shabbos and hence enjoying the holiness of God who is Holy."

Interestingly there are two accounts of Creation in Genesis. The first account is in the first chapter of Genesis and the beginning of the second chapter up until verse 3. The second seemingly repetitive account of Creation that starts from the second chapter verse 4 until the end of chapter four. In the first account of Creation there is no mention of Adam eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and being expelled from the Garden of Eden. At the height of the first account of Creation is the dramatic verse when God declares "נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ" – "Let us make Adam in Our Image Like Us" (Genesis 1:26)

Who is this Adam that God creates in His Image and Likeness? It is not the Adam that falls and sins by eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, rather it is the Atem Keruyim Adam (you [Israel]] are called Adam) the Children of israel who merit getting and observing the Mitzva of Shabbos that are the "Adam" that is meant in the first account of Creation. In the spirit of Sof Ma'aseh Bemachshava Techila (last in deed [but] first in thought/intention).

The Shabbos is for the Jewish People who are called the true Adam. They are the ones that reverse the curse of Adam HaRishon (the first man) at Mattan Torah (receiving/giving of the Torah) at Har Sinai (Mount Sinai) where they receive the Aseres HaDibros (Ten Commandments) that includes the key commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy to be observed by the Children of Israel/Jewish People forevermore.

Yaakov Avinu Mitato Sheleimah – Jacob our forefather whose bed [meaning children] is perfect, since all of Jacob's sons the Yud Beis Shevatim, the Twelve Tribes, were all righteous he therefore bested the original Adam and he merited that his descendants should be rewarded with keeping the Sabbath. This is what is meant in the afternoon Mincha prayers of the Sabbath that Jews recite; "Yaakov Uvanav Yanuchu Vo" – Jacob and his sons will rest on it (the Sabbath day). After all Yaakov who is renamed Yisrael is the literal father of the Bnei Yisrael – Children of Israel who in turn are the forefathers of the later larger Children of Israel known as the Jewish People to this very day.

So much so that Shabbos becomes the identifying symbol of the observant Jew. If someone wants to know if a Jew believes in HaShem and the Torah and keeps the Mitzvot the accepted litmus test among the Jewish People is to ask if that Jew is a Shomer Shabbat (observes the laws of the Shabbos). It is the Shabbos which is endowed with Kedusha that defines if a Jew recognizes that he is in fact Kadosh (holy) because to keep the Shabbat is to respect Kedushat Shabbat – Holiness of the Sabbath.

Shabbos is called Mei-ein Olam Haba – sample of the Future World since when one keeps Shabbos properly and enjoys it one then transported to and connected to a different dimension where the world is imbued with Kedusha – Holiness and is removed from the mundane, secular nature of the ordinary weekday world.

As a personal external sign of honoring Shabbos and the Jewish Holidays, in his later years, approximately in the last decade of his life, Rav Hutner gave up wearing a large black hat and instead put on a Spodik (high round fur hat usually worn by Ger Chasidim on special occasions) that he wore on Shabbos and Yom Tov in addition to wearing his silk Kapotta (Kaftan robe) and a Gartel (cloth black belt worn during prayer). Many people who thought that they understood him were bewildered that a Litvish Rosh Yeshiva should put on a Spodik that is normally worn by Gerrer Chasidim on Shabbasos and Yomim Tovim.

Rav YItschak Hutner zts"l
Rav YItschak Hutner zts"lCourtesy

Some said Rav Hutner was in a way returning to his mother's roots who came from a Ger Chasidic background. Others said Rav Hutner was following the Talmidei HAGRA (of the Vilna Gaon) and Minhag Yerushalayim when Litvaks wear Shtreimels like Chasidim do. Rav A.Y. Kook who was Rav Hutner's Rebbe when he was younger and lived in Eretz Yisrael also wore a Spodik. Sometime during the final three weeks of his life in the hospital, following a serious stroke, Rav Hutner asked his attendants to bring him his Spodik so that he could wear it for the last time as he approached Olam Haba (the future world) and Gan Eden.

During Rav Hutner's lifetime, those of his Talmidim (students) who spent time with him on Shabbos and Yom Tov were privileged to see and enjoy how Rav Hutner gloried in the Kedusha (holiness) of Shabbos. During those times when Rav Hutner would pray with the yeshiva he would stand and sway and dance rhythmically during Kabbolas Shabbos and Lecha Dodi. Rav Hutner loved music and was very musical himself and he gave special attention to the Shabbos Zemiros (songs). There were occasions when he delivered his famous Ma'amorim (Torah discourses) at various times on Shabbos. Sometimes before the onset of Maariv, sometimes during and after the Shabbos meals when he had guests at his house for Shabbos meals. Over the course of more than forty years he would wait for Shabbos and its its special moods, such as Friday night or at Shalosh Seudos (third meal of Shabbos) to impart his thoughts and ideas that he felt were only properly conveyed and understood when said on, and in the spirit of, Kedushas Shabbos (sanctity of Shabbos).

Rabbi Yitschak Rudominwas born to Holocaust survivor parents in Israel, grew up in South Africa, and lives in Brooklyn, NY. He is an alumnus of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin and of Teachers College–Columbia University. He heads the Jewish Professionals Institute dedicated to Jewish Adult Education and Outreach – Kiruv Rechokim. He was the Director of the Belzer Chasidim's Sinai Heritage Center of Manhattan 1988–1995, a Trustee of AJOP 1994–1997 and founder of American Friends of South African Jewish Education 1995–2015. He is also a docent and tour guide at The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in Downtown Manhattan, New York.

He is the author of The Second World War and Jewish Education in America: The Fall and Rise of Orthodoxy.

Contact Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin at [email protected]