“Do not shame My holy name; sanctify me amongst the people of Israel, I am G-d.” (Vayikra 22; 32)
This is a strange juxtaposition. Chillul Hashem is the biggest aveira. Kiddush Hashem is the biggest mitzva. One would think that the person prone to making a Chillul Hashem is very far removed from the great mitzva of making a Kiddush Hashem. What are these two people doing in the same verse?
My Rebbe (Rav Chaim Pinchus Scheinberg) once put it very succinctly. Life is very confusing and decision making is so complex. To make it easier, it is worth understanding that before acting there is really only one question that a Jew must ask himself: Will this be a Kiddush Hashem or a Chillul Hashem? It’s one or the other, there is no pareve.
Given that we as Jews were created to make the world more Godly, when we are not making a kidush Hashem it is a chilul Hashem! It is a chilul Hashem not to make a kidush Hashem. We are simply not performing our mandate in this world. Our very existence should be to make Kidush Hashem.
Kidush Hashem is not just about jumping into fire; we are always on duty. The way we talk, the way we interact with others, the way we conduct business, the way we talk to our children, the way we dress, the way we treat our elderly, even the way we walk down the street – are all opportunities for a kiddush Hashem. It is expected of us as a Chosen people to act with dignity and integrity, if we don’t live up to that expectation it is a chilul Hashem!
I heard Rav Pam quoted as telling the following story. The Chofetz Chaim once sent his son on a mission. The Chofetz Chaim warned his son to be careful as to how he acts. For if he would act in a fashion which was even slightly inappropriate for a Torah scholar, it would be a desecration of G-d’s Name. The Chofetz Chaim’s son protested, “But father, I am not a Talmid Chochom, I am a simple Jew!” The Chofetz Chaim responded, “To create a Chilul Hashem, you are enough of a Talmid Chochom”. (I may have heard this from Rabbi Yissachar Frand)
When I first heard these words from my Rebbe I found them quite harsh. Do we have to feel the pressure of self-evaluation all the time? If everything we do is either a mitzva or an aveira, when do we just live? Can’t we just relax? Yet the difficult truth remains that there is no porch sitting for Jews.
When I read the newspapers I tend to resent always being judged. Is there any other country or nation today or throughout history that is as scrutinized by the international press as are the Jews? Nevertheless, whether we like it or not, every act we do, militarily or politically, is either a Kiddush Hashem or a Chillul Hashem!
The same is true for us as individuals. It may not always get into the paper, (although lately it has) but we are always being judged. We want to disappear into the crowd, we want to just be people — but we are Jews. When we do well we give kovod to Hashem when we don’t we desecrate His holy name.
More than ever as a country, as a people and as individuals, we must measure our words and our actions. The reward for Kiddush Hashem is beyond imagination.
Recently the very last part of the Amidah has started to jump out at me. “Act for Your Names sake; act for Your right hand’s sake; act for Your Torah’s sake;act for Your sanctity’s sake … let Your right hand save and respond to me.” (Elokai Netzor)
After all prayers are said we implore G-d with a sense of entitlement! ‘I’m on the job; I have dedicated myself to Your honor; I am always concerned with Your Torah and Your children – I’m a company man, so take care of me. Answer my prayers!’