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Parashat Emor: Kiddush Hashem and Hilul Hashem

We find in Parashat Emor one of the most important commands in the entire Torah: "Veílo Tehalelu Et Shem Kodshi" Ė "You shall not desecrate My sacred Name" (22:32). The Torah here introduces the prohibition of "Hilul Hashem," which forbids defaming the Name of G-d through our conduct. The way we act directly affects the way the people around us view our religion and G-d Himself. If we speak discourteously or fail to show consideration to others, then people think that people who follow G-dís Torah become rude and insensitive, and the Torah strictly forbids acting in a way that gives this impression.

Our Sages emphasized the particular severity of this prohibition, teaching that one cannot earn atonement for "Hilul Hashem" until after he dies. Other sins can be atoned for through repentance, Yom Kippur, or various forms of suffering. When it comes to "Hilul Hashem," however, one does not achieve atonement even by repenting, observing Yom Kippur and enduring suffering. This violation is so severe that complete atonement is achieved only at the time of oneís death.

In addition to presenting the prohibition of "Hilul Hashem," the Torah here also introduces the obligation of "Kiddush Hashem," to bring honor and glory to G-d through our conduct. The Torah writes, "You shall not desecrate My sacred Name, and I shall be glorified." The question is asked, why does the Torah need to issue both these commands? If one brings glory to G-dís Name, then he certainly does not defame G-dís Name. Seemingly, then, it should have sufficed for the Torah to command us to bring glory to G-dís Name, as in so doing one necessarily avoids dishonoring G-dís Name. Why, then, did the Torah also mention the prohibition of "Hilul Hashem"?

The answer that has been given is that sometimes people are so intent in creating a "Kiddush Hashem" that they end up creating a grievous "Hilul Hashem" in the process. One very common, and very unfortunate, example is people who block the aisle while praying on an airplane. In and of itself, praying while traveling is a great "Kiddush Hashem," as it publicly demonstrates oneís devotion to G-d and how he is committed to prayer even under the difficult conditions of travel. But if one inconveniences his fellow passengers in the process, then he creates a "Hilul Hashem," not a "Kiddush Hashem." Rather than bringing honor to G-d, he conveys the terribly mistaken message that G-d encourages us to be inconsiderate and insensitive to other people.

It once happened that during the morning Shaharit prayer in our synagogue, as we were praying the Amida, a person who lived next to the synagogue stormed into the sanctuary, visibly distraught. He explained that somebody had parked in front of his driveway, and he was unable to leave. After several minutes, the person who had parked his car in front of the driveway finally finished the Amida, and angrily said, "I was rushing to come and pray. Whatís the big deal if he waits for a few minutes?"

This is a grave "Hilul Hashem." This person thought he was acting piously by rushing to the synagogue for prayer. He did not realize that if his rush to pray in the synagogue necessitated creating this "Hilul Hashem," then he would be much better off praying at home. One cannot create a "Kiddush Hashem" by creating a "Hilul Hashem" in the process.

I recall another example where on a cold, snowy day a man double parked so he could run into a store to do Shabbat shopping. When he came back to his car with his Hallot, wine and other goods, the fellow whose car was blocked was, understandably, very upset. The man who double parked retorted that he was going in to do Shabbat shopping, so the other man could wait for a few minutes. This man thought that since he was doing something very noble Ė going out to purchase goods for Shabbat in inclement weather Ė he was entitled to inconvenience other people in the process. He, too, failed to realize that one cannot make a "Kiddush Hashem" by way of a "Hilul Hashem."

This is why the Torah both forbids "Hilul Hashem" and commands us to make a "Kiddush Hashem." It instructs us that involving ourselves in important and worthwhile Misvot does not justify inconsiderate behavior, that we must avoid defaming G-dís Name even as Ė or especially as Ė we are working to bring glory to G-dís Name.


Sefer/Parasha:
Parashat Ha'azinu: Calling to G-d in Times of Trouble
Shabbat Shuva- Teshuba & Torah Learning
Rosh Hashana: Reaching the Heavenly Throne, One Step at a Time
Parashat Ki Tabo- The Darkness Before the Light
Parashat Ki Teseh: Strengthening Ourselves in Preparation for Redemption
Parashat Shoftim: Pure, Simple Faith
Parashat Re'eh: Earning a Livelihood Through Joy
Parashat Ekeb: G-dís Eternal Love for His Nation
The Great Joy of Tu BíAb
Debarim: The Proper Response to Crisis
Parashat Matot Masei- We Never Lose by Doing the Right Thing
Parashat Pinhas: We are All Messengers
Parashat Balak: Foiling Bilamís Plan
Parashat Hukat: Singing for the Torah
Parashat Korah: Aharonís Respect for His Fellow Jews
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914 Parashot found