Office of the Chief Rabbi

Dvar Torah: Parashat Emor

In this week’s Dvar Torah the Chief Rabbi describes why there are two commandments for one and the same thing.

What’s the greatest lesson we learn from our Children?

In Prashat Emor there are two commandments for one and the same thing. Hashem says, “v’lo techalelu et shem kodshi” – ‘you must not desecrate my holy name’. And then he goes on to say “v’nikdashti b’toch b’nei Yisrael” – ‘I will be sanctified in the midst of the children of Israel’. We mustn’t desecrate Hashem’s name and me must sanctify it – two sides of the same coin. And the fact that they are two separate mitzvot indicates how crucially important this matter is for our nation.

Notice that whereas with desecrating it’s an active statement – ‘v’lo techalelu’ – ‘you must not desecrate’, but for sanctifying Hashem’s name, it’s in the passive – ‘v’nikdashti’ – ‘I will be sanctified’. From here we learn that some of the greatest actions of Kiddush Hashem come, not from activity, carefully planned in order to impress but rather from something which comes spontaneously from us. When we are caught off guard and people see our true selves, they will be more deeply impressed with our sincerity and the consideration we have for others – that causes an enormous Kiddush Hashem.

Interestingly, Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky commented that this is the only one of the six hundred and thirteen mitzvot which children under the age of Bar and Bat Mitzvah keep. How is this possible? Usually, one must be a ‘bar chiyuva’ – somebody who is old enough to have that responsibility. But here, it is a direct consequence of what we do – we don’t have to be the ‘bat chiyuva’. So it applies to children as well.

I must tell you that this is so true. For me some of the greatest moments of Kiddush Hashem I have witnessed have come from children. Children enjoying their yiddishkeit. Singing with such enthusiasm – at home, in shul and in school. Children singing zemirot around the shabbat table. Our children are the greatest advertisement for our yiddishkeit. From them we, as adults learn this crucially important lesson.

Let us therefore encourage our children, throughout their lives, to maintain the natural flow of Kiddush Hashem. And to learn from them that ultimately, what matters most is not to be a great actor but rather to be a great, natural person.

Shabbat Shalom


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