This chapter addresses the question of what holiness is. This question has very rarely been asked of Jewish texts, perhaps because the notion of holiness is so pervasive in Judaism that asking Jewish texts about the nature of holiness is like asking fish about the nature of water. Maimonides held a different view of holiness. Holiness is the name given to a certain class of people, objects, times, and places which the Torah marks off. According to this view, holiness is a status, not a quality of existence. This sort of holiness does not reflect objective reality; it helps constitute social reality. Holy places, persons, times, and objects are indubitably holy, and must be treated with all due respect, but they are, in and of themselves, like all other places, persons, times, and objects. What is different about them is the way in which the Torah commands that they be treated. Their sanctity derives from the uses to which they are put; in that sense, it is teleological.
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