Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Kedusha - Right, Left, Center

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Further to R' Gil's recent posting on the minhagim of Kedusha, I've decided to write about those mysterious "V'kara Zeh El Zeh V'amar" movements. There is a widespread practice when saying Kedusha to bow to the left, to the right, and then towards the center at the words "V'kara Zeh El Zeh V'amar". This ambiguous practice is actually without any authentic source and none of the Torah giants of earlier generations were ever noted for practicing it.[1] Nevertheless, over the years a number of interpretations have been offered to rationalize this practice as we will see.

The Siddur Tefila L'David of the Lelover Chassidim says that when one is reciting the "V'kara Zeh el Zeh V'amar" one should bow to the right and then to the left as if one is taking permission. [2]

Click here to read moreThe "permission" in this context is open to a number of different interpretations. One will note that the opening line of the Kedusha is a declaration of our desire to praise God just like the angels do. We are told that when the angels praise God with the thrice "Kadosh", they first call out to each other in order to organize themselves to praise Him in unison. We can suggest therefore that our bowing to the right and left is intended to humble ourselves and request permission from these angels, often depicted as standing on either side of God, to praise Him as they do.[3]

My preferred interpretation however is that the bowing to our left and right represents everyone in the congregation turning and calling out to one another in order to praise God together in unison. This emphasizes the vital aspect of achdut, unity, during prayer – a unity characteristic of the angels. Indeed, there is a recorded custom (now extinct) not to bow left and right at "V'kara Zeh El Zeh" but rather to wave our hands to those around us as if to signify that everyone now come together to join as one for the recitation of the Kedusha.[4]

It can also be suggested that the bowing right and left is simply intended to symbolize how God is praised from all sides and directions by the Heavenly hosts. Alternatively, it may just be a humbling posture for requesting permission from God Himself to praise Him.

Another cited source for the "V'kara Zeh El Zeh V'amar" movements is a reference to the piyut "Amitzei Shechakim" that is recited on Yom Kippur which makes mention of angels turning to "every side" to recite the "Kadosh". Again, it would appear that the desire to imitate the angels at this time is seen as a commendable act which likely fueled the "V'kara Zeh El Zeh V'amar" customs. There is also a basis for the practice based on the Zohar[5] which relates the bowing to the right and left to the rainbow.[6]

It is interesting to note that although we see that the custom of turning to the left, right, center at the words "V'kara Zeh El Zeh" is obscure at best, there is a documented (but extinct) practice to actually make these movements at each of the words "Kadosh", respectively. It is explained in the name of the Arizal that the first "Kadosh" represents kindness elevated by wisdom, which is said to emanate from the right side.[7] The second "Kadosh" represents strength elevated by understanding which emanates from the left side. Finally, the third "Kadosh" represents beauty elevated by knowledge which emanates from the center.[8] Our desire to achieve these mystical manifestations is one of the reasons for the common custom of rising to one's toes during the "Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh."

Although there is mention of beginning the "V'kara Zeh El Zeh V'amar" movements with the right side, there is actually no preference whether to first turn to the right or the left. Many people don’t even say this opening line of Kedusha as it belongs primarily to the Chazzan.[9]

NEXT WEEK: "Brich Hu" or "Amen" in Kaddish. Please send me your lesser-known and obscure sources as well as anecdotes for inclusion.


[1]Az Nidberu 13:32:3
[2]Cited in Minhag Yisrael Torah O.C. 125:2
[3]Yeshayahu 6:3
[4]Kaf Hachaim (Rav Palagi) 15:1
[5]Parshat Noach, cited in MinhagYisrael Torah O.C. 125:2
[6]Cited in Minhag Yisrael Torah O.C. 125:2
[7]For more on these attributes and their mystical manifestations see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sephirot
[8]Minhag Yisrael Torah O.C. 125:2
[9]Az Nidberu 13:32

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