Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen – Parsha Emor – The True Definition Of Kiddush Hashem And Chillul Hashem

The famous Mitzvos of Kiddush HaShem and Chillul HaShem feature in Parshas Emor:  The Torah instructs us: “And you will guard My Mitzvos and do them, I am HaShem.  And you will not desecrate My holy Name, and I will be sanctified amongst the children of Israel, I am HaShem who sanctifies you.:[3]   The terms, Kiddush HaShem and Chillul HaShem are liberally used, sometimes when one disagrees with the action of his fellow, yet in truth, the Rambam gives three applications of this Mitzva.[4]

The first is that a person must be willing to give up his life rather than transgress one of the Three Cardinal Mitzvos if a non-Jew forces him to transgress with the threat of killing him.  Likewise, one must to transgress any Mitzva when he is forced to transgress it in order to undermine the Torah; and the same applies in a shaas shmad (time of decrees against the Jews).    If one gives up his life in any of these situations, then he fulfils the Mitzva of Kiddush HaShem.  Conversely. If a person fails in this nisayon and commits the sin when he should have let the non-Jew kill him, then he transgresses Chillul HaShem.[5]

The second, less well-known aspect of Kiddush HaShem is when a person resists his temptation to sin, or performs a positive Mitzva purely for the sake of HaShem.  Conversely, if a person sins not out of temptation, but in order to anger HaShem, then he transgresses Chillul HaShem.[6]  It is important to note that these cases apply even when nobody else is present.

The final application of Chillul HaShem is when a person acts in a way that may not technically be forbidden but they are not fitting for the person at his level and onlookers see that a person representing Torah is acting in an inappropriate manner.  The Rambam, based on Chazal,gives examples of a Talmid Chacham not paying of his debts immediately, being too light-headed, not greeting people with a sever panim yafeh (smiling face), and getting into arguments.  Conversely, when such a person speaks nicely, smiles towards people, does not reply to insults, does business with integrity, acts beyond the letter of the law, he does a Kiddush HaShem.

One area that the Rambam does not enumerate as an example of Chillul HaShem is when a person proudly observes Mitzvos even when onlookers will be angered because he is keeping the Torah[7], or mock his actions.  The following story demonstrates this idea brought by Rav Yeshaya Horowitz.[8] 

When Rav Ben-Tzion Fellman was a child, he lived in Tel Aviv and proudly wore his tzitzis out even though he was surrounded by many non-observant people.  Sometimes people stopped him in the street to ask about them but it didn’t discourage him from wearing them.  However, Ben-Tzion faced a difficult upcoming challenge – in the words of Rav Horowitz: “Summer vacation approached.  The Fellmans arranged to go to Beis Bosel, a government-run guest house in Tzfas.  When Ben-Tzion asked his friends about it, though, they told him that some of the people who went there didn’t keep Mitzvos.  Ben-Tzion was worried about spending a week among people who didn’t know a thing about tzitzis, who might make fun of him.  He considered tucking in his tzitzis, just during the vacation, and went to ask the Chazon Ish what he thought.  ‘The Rema answers the shailah at the beginning of the Shulchan Aruch’, the Chazon Ish told him.  He got up and took the first volume from his shelf.  Opening it, he pointed to chapter one, paragraph one, and invited Ben-Tzion to read along with him: ‘Do not be embarrassed by people who scorn avodas HaShem’.  With his other hand, he took Ben-Tzion’s hand.  He got up and they paced back and forth in the room holding hands, singing the Rema’s words. ‘You hear’, he told Ben-Tzion. ‘Continue to wear your tzitzis in the open.  Do not be embarrassed by people who tease you for your avodas HaShem.

In later years, Rav Ben-Tzion spoke about how the Chazon Ish’s words gave him the strength for the rest of his life, to engage in avodas HaShem without worring about what others thought.”

We have seen the true definition of Kiddush HaShem and Chillul HaShem.  May we merit to only sanctify HaShem’s name in private and in public.

[3] Vayikra, 22:31-32.

[4] Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah, Chapter 5.

[5] See ibid, Halachos 1-9 for all the details of these halachos.

[6] Ibid, halacha 10.

[7] There may be situations where keeping a chumra adversely affects others, and it may be preferable to do the Mitzva in a way that is normally less ideal.  One application of this is praying in a minyan on a plane, when it will disturb other people sleeping, or block the aisles, and bother other people.  In such situations, many Poskim rule that it is better to pray alone in one’s seat.

[8] ‘A Treasury of Stories’, Rav Yeshaya Horowitz, Part 1, pp.197-198.

[9] Emor, 24:12.

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva _ PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Emor – Pesach Sheini: Praying For Extra Relief

I was deeply saddened last week to hear about the passing of Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, zt”l. I didn’t know him personally, but I was inspired by him. He was a legend. He gave hope to so many girls who had challenging life situations, be it abuse or addictions. He was a beacon of hope. An article in Ami Magazine last week quoted him as saying, “My whole mission in life is to inspire girls not to lose hope.” He always said, “You can’t choose the family you were born into or many other life settings, but you can choose what to do with your reality. You can choose to wallow in depression, stay in bed, take drugs, or…you can face your challenges and give encouragement to others in similar situations.”

This message of finding hope echoes in our parsha. This Sunday, the 14th of Iyar, no tachanun will be said as it is the Yom Tov of Pesach Sheini. It’s a “holiday” that wasn’t in the original list of Yomim Tovim set forth in this week’s Parshas Emor. During klal Yisrael’s first year in the desert, a group of people were tamei meis (impure via contact with a dead person) and were not permitted to offer the Korban Pesach. They approached Moshe and said, “lama nigara”—why should we be left out of this mitzvah? Hashem told Moshe to instruct them regarding a new Yom Tov, Pesach Sheini, to give them a second chance to bring a Korban Pesach and eat matzah one month later. This gave them sufficient time to purify themselves.

This group of Jews had felt left out. It wasn’t their fault they were temporarily impure, and they yearned to be part of the mitzvah of Korban Pesach. They asked for a second chance. Hashem answered by creating a new reality for them and for all future people in the same predicament.

The Arizal talks about seven sefiros (attributes) of Hashem that correspond to the seven weeks of the Omer and, in turn, to each of the seven days of the week. The concept of the fifth sefira of Hod (splendor), and the new opportunities Hashem provides through this attribute, is expressed in the second paragraph before Shema. This paragraph lists the qualities of Hashem corresponding to a different sefira (list of Hashem’s attributes). The fifth one is “Borei refuos”—Hashem creates new cures to sickness. The word “borei” specifically describes creating something from nothing, which only Hashem can do.

Pesach Sheini is the start of the fifth week of the Omer, which is Hod. And the fifth day of this week is Lag B’Omer, corresponding to the sefira of Hod. Rabbi Avrohom Schorr explains Hod means to give glory, splendor. It also is from the same word of hoda’ah—to give thanks. Specifically, it’s giving thanks to Hashem for providing something that is entirely a bonus. The Midrash says Leah was the first person to offer thanks to Hashem for receiving something “extra.” Leah named her fourth son Yehuda (thanks to Hashem), as she expected she would give birth to three out of the 12 shevatim (tribes) so all four wives of Yaakov would each bear the same number of children. When Yehuda was born, her fourth child, she realized she received more than her due, from her beseeching Hashem.

Pesach Sheini provides the lesson that when it seems there is no option for a desired result, turn to Hashem and ask…with a full and a sincere heart. Although there is no Beis Hamikdash and there is no Korban Pesach, Pesach Sheini is still a Yom Tov and no tachanun is recited. Hashem is telling us there is always room for a second chance.

Hashem creates new cures. One example in 2014 was the first successful uterus transplant. This now gives new hope for many women to have a child! New treatments and procedures are being discovered in so many areas.

We all have struggles and problems that can lead to despair. The answer is to ask Hashem for relief. We should open a book of Tehillim and say Chapter 121, “Shir hamaalos…mei’ayin yavo ezri”—from where will come my help. The word mei’ayin literally means “from nowhere.” I have no one helping me. The next line is “Ezri mei’im Hashem”—help comes from Hashem.” Hashem can create something positive from nothing and from nowhere.

Rabbi Wallerstein radiated this message. It might seem that you are helpless, but there’s always hope. He helped so many people move on in life, providing them with new and sometimes unbelievable opportunities. We can do the same, helping one another see an opportunity for relief either naturally or through prayer to Hashem. May Hashem answer our prayers by granting us new opportunities when we need them.