Why the letter Kof?

The Hebrew letter Kof stands as a symbol of my web page.  I chose it because it is the first letter of the Hebrew word “Kadosh” which means holy.

One of the most famous lines of the Torah teaches (Lev. 19:1) “You shall be holy for I the Lord your God am holy.”

“Holy” really means set apart or different from the ordinary.  Torah came into the world because the ordinary values of the ancient world were not good enough for our people. Our tradition calls on us to be different: to strive for an ever higher standard of justice, righteousness, kindness and compassion than those which prevailing societal norms uphold.

In terms of time we are taught to make a distinction between ordinary time — the time to do the work of living — and time that is Kadosh, holy.  In Kadosh time we step back and ponder why we do the things we do.  We ask ourselves: How can we infuse more kindness, caring and compassion into our daily living?  In his best seller THE GIFTS OF THE JEWS (ANCHOR BOOKS, 1999), Thomas Cahill calls the division between sacred and ordinary time the greatest gift of the Jewish people to humanity.

When I was a child, my parents gave me a copy of THE ALEPH-BET STORY BOOK by Deborah Pessin.  It contains children’s stories about each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.  My favorite among the stories was then and is now, “Kof and the Woodcutter’s Prayer.”  In it, a poor woodcutter and a rabbi who visits him by chance both learn and teach a vital lesson about humility and priorities. I have retold that story many times in my career because of the lessons it teaches.

My favorite Shabbat Prayer asks God to, “Help us to distinguish between that which is real and enduring (my favorite definition of Kadosh) and that which is fleeting and vain.” In writing my book I have searched the Torah for those values which are real and enduring. In my blog as well I hope my thoughts help my readers and me to infuse a greater sense of Kedushah, (holiness, that begins with the letter Kof) into our lives.

Rabbi Stephen Fuchs
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