Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Emor

When can the performance of a great mitzva bring our people into disrepute?

The Torah, in Parshat Emor, gives us the mitzvah: ‘vlo techalelu et sheim kodshei – you must not desecrate my holy name’. Here Hashem is telling us that none of our deeds should, God forbid, give a bad name to Hashem, to our Torah or to our people.

Then the Torah continues with a second mitzvah, ‘Vnictashti b’toch bnei Yisrael – and I shall be sanctified in the midst of the Jewish people’. The Gemara, in Megillah, Daf 3b,  tells us that from the word ‘b’toch’ – ‘in the midst of’ – we learn about the requirement of a minyan, a quorum of 10 men for all devarim shebikdusha – precepts of supreme holiness. Such as Baruchu, Kedusha, Kaddish, the reading of the Torah in public, a wedding and so on.

Now, the two mitzvot of chillul Hashem (not desecrating His name), and Kidush Hashem, (sanctifying his name) are linked together through the vav, the word ‘and’ between them in the phrase ‘V’nikdashti’ – ‘and I will be sanctified’. The Chatam Sofer explained as follows: ‘shelo yitchallel al yadei kiddush Hashem shemo hagadol’ – says the Chatam Sofer: we must always make sure that our Kiddush Hashem does not cause a Chillul Hashem.

Let me give you an example. When travelling on an airplane and you want to daven in a minyan; what you should first do is enquire from the stewards and stewardesses if they’re ok with it and when the best time will be. Then, when you do daven, guarantee that you don’t cause inconvenience for fellow travellers, in terms of your location on the plane. Because if you’re not careful, it is possible that the staging of this minyan could cause a Chillul Hashem.

Similarly during these very trying times of the Coronavirus, we are witnessing a few incidents of awful Chillul Hashem, bringing  us all into disrepute. But the converse is also the case, I would like to say a huge Yashar Koach, a huge thank you to all of you who should have been enjoying smachot at this time. But unfortunately that’s not possible, either they’re being postponed or they have needed to be an adjusted version of your grand simcha. Your disappointment has been matched by your recognition of the fact that you’re performing an incredible mitzvah – the mitzvah to preserve life. And I, and so many others, have been so inspired by the example that you have set and the great kiddush Hashem that you have performed.

Let us hope that Hakadosh Baruch Hu will provide us with many opportunities to perform Kiddush Hashem, to sanctify his name and to keep far away from Chillul Hashem – never to desecrate his name. And may we, as soon as possible, be in a position, in good health and happiness, to come together in minyanim, for the sake of Devarim Shebikdusha, to sanctify God’s name in this world in the best possible way.

Shabbat shalom.