Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday Kavvanah, 8/25/2011 - What is a kehillah, anyway?

On Tuesday, The Modern Rabbi featured a kavvanah about building relationships bein adam la-qehillah*, between individuals and the community. Later that day, the same word crossed my e-desk from a different direction, albeit spelled with a "k.", a blog featuring articles about contemporary issues in progressive Judaism, posted a caustic reaction to the Conservative movement's Project Reconnect and its ongoing initiative to help match people who need High Holiday tickets with synagogues.

The poster, who goes by Reb Yudel, took issue with the Conservative movement's use of the word "kehillah" in place of "congregation." Kehillah (or qehillah; plural kehillot/qehillot) literally means congregation. It is a gathering of people for a specific holy purpose, in contradistinction to the word "keneset," or gathering. A synagogue is a "beit keneset," a place of gathering (and the English word "synagogue" comes from the Greek translation of "beit keneset").

But there is nothing holy about a building; it is only when a kehillah is gathered there for ritual moments that it becomes a place of holiness.

A good Hebrew word to know, surely.


* Yes, silly grammar-lovers like me prefer to transliterate the Hebrew letter "qof" as a "q," even though it seems curious and perhaps somewhat threatening to the average English speaker.

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