One of the main themes of the book of Leviticus ויקרא is the call for the sanctification of Hashem’s name ‘קדוש ה and the warnings against the profanation of His name חלול ה׳. In our parasha, in addition to the Cohanim receive their own command, the whole people are also charged with ולא תחללו את שם קדשי, ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל,… “Do not profane my holy name; rather ensure I am sanctified in the midst of the children of Israel…”. (VaYikra 22:32)


What exactly are we being asked to do? The מצוות ה which sets out each of the 613 mitzvot according to HaRambam and what they entail says that חלול ה׳ and its opposite קדוש ה׳ manifests itself in 3 ways. Firstly, describing when a Jew should give up their life rather than transgress ie the laws of martyrdom. Secondly, it describes חלול ה׳ as occurring when someone transgresses a law not because of desire or benefit but simply to be rebellious. Thirdly, when someone brings Hashem or Judaism into disrepute through an action which might even be permissible.


There are manifold examples of the latter category of חלול ה׳. They can range from the ultra orthodox UKIP politician being reportedly involved with ladies of the night or rabbinical authorities being accused of covering up child abuse by teachers to simply losing one’s temper with customer service in a public place or one’s own appearance or communal buildings in an unkempt or unhygienic state. Being honest in our business dealings and positively contributing to the society we live in is also absolutely critical. The responsibility of safeguarding against חלול ה׳ or more positively doing a קדוש ה׳ applies to how observant Jews appear to their brethren and how all Jews however secular appear to non-Jews. The recent scandal in the UK of a Jewish entrepreneur being accused of not looking after a major retailer’s pensioners is a case in point.


The severity of contravening the prohibition (and it can be easily done) cannot be overstated. Rambam in his Hilchot Teshuva (1:4) describes how Teshuva is only effective in such a case after Yom Kippur, suffering and death. Teshuva does not require death in all other cases to be effective.


What can we do to promote קדוש ה׳ and avoid חלול ה׳? Firstly, we need to encourage דרך ארץ and good character traits מדות by ensuring it is a significant part of a school and yeshiva’s curriculum as well as a mainstay of home education. Secondly, we need to ensure we respect all human beings. We must recognize that as a people we have been chosen to elevate our own behaviours but not to intrinsically consider ourselves superior to others especially by denigrating them. Focusing on developing one’s own good traits and not judging others helps us אוהב את הבריות ואוהב את המקום and build positive relationships with both our fellow human being and Hashem.
שבת שלום.
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