Posted on May 4, 2023 (5783) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: #1248 – The Challenge for the Occupational and Speech Therapist: Feeding Non-Kosher Food to a Jewish Child. Good Shabbos!

The pasuk in Parshas Emor says: “You shall not profane my holy Name, and I shall be sanctified in the midst of the Children of Israel, I am Hashem who sanctifies you.” (Vayikra 22:32). This is the Biblical prohibition not to make a ‘Chilul Hashem – not to profane the Name of Hashem. The pasuk also concludes with the positive Biblical commandment to make a ‘Kiddush Hashem – to sanctify the name of Hashem.

Rashi here explains that ‘Chilul Hashem refers to a person willfully committing an aveira, by saying, “I am going to eat this non-kosher food item; I don’t care what the Torah says about that.” That is a ‘Chillul Hashem.’ It is as if he is disregarding Hashem.

We usually think of other kinds of Chillul Hashem, such as parking in a handicap space when everyone knows your identity. There are many such “modern day versions” of Chillul Hashem. However, Rashi first refers to Chillul Hashem as knowing something is an aveira and saying “I don’t care. I am going to do it anyway.” That is a terrible Chillul Hashem, even if not done in public!

Rashi further says that besides the first part of this pasuk that prohibits us from desecrating the name of Hashem, the latter part of the pasuk commands us to give up our lives, if necessary, for the purpose of sanctifying the Name of Hashem. This is the concept of Mesiras Nefesh, giving oneself over!

Jews have been moser nefesh for millennia. When Jews were given the bitter “choice” of converting to Christianity, converting to Islam, or other religions, Jews were literally burnt at the stake. They were tortured and killed. This is an example of “give yourself over and sanctify My name,” which Rashi says is a Biblical obligation derived from this pasuk.

Again, there are “modern versions” of Kiddush Hashem – such as the Jewish fellow who bought a desk and found $100,000 hidden therein. He returned the money to the original desk owner and it made all the newspapers. This was a frum person who could have said “finders keepers.” People would never have known about it. That was a Kiddush Hashem as well. I am not denying it. But Rashi here is defining the ultimate Kiddush Hashem: Mesor atzmecha v’kadesh es Shemi (Give yourself over and sanctify My name).

In our days, it seems that we don’t have opportunities for mesor atzmecha v’kadesh es Shemi. Most of us are fortunate to live in more enlightened societies in which we are not being forced to convert, and therefore it would seem that the example that Rashi cites is no longer applicable in our time.

I would like to suggest that Rashi’s example is as applicable today as it ever was. The Rambam (Yesodei HaTorah 5:10) paskens this halacha. The Rambam rules that someone who wantonly violates the Torah’s rules (not out of passion but to willfully show his disdain for halacha) has made a Chillul Hashem. He adds that if he does this in public (i.e., in the presence of ten Jews), he has made a public Chillul Hashem, which is an even worse aveira.

The Rambam then adds: “And likewise someone who abstains from sinning or does a mitzvah – not for any material advantage or with any ulterior motive but only because it is the will of the Creator – has sanctified the name of Hashem.” He cites the example of Yosef who abstained from privately sinning with Potifar’s wife as an example of such a Kiddush Hashem.

We see from this Rambam that Yosef’s behavior on that occasion is an example of “giving oneself over and sanctifying My name.” It is a great Kiddush Hashem when, despite the fact that “I would WANT to do an aveira” or “I would NOT WANT to do a Mitzvah,” nonetheless, my actions are governed not by what I want but what the Ribono shel Olam wants. Mesor es Atzmecha means you are giving up your atzmiyus – your independence, your ability to act as a “free agent.” In English, we translate the term “mesiras nefesh” as “self-sacrifice,” the sacrifice of oneself. That means when I must choose between myself and Hashem, I am doing it for Hashem. That is a Kiddush HaShem.

I used to be very turned off by people flippantly throwing around the term “mesiras nefesh.” “It was a rainy or snowy night. I invited you to a Bar Mitzvah or to a vort (engagement party). You came. You schlepped to Lakewood or New York. You walk in. “Oh! What mesiras nefesh!!” I used to think, “that is not mesiras nefesh! Mesiras nefesh is giving up your life!”

But there is a different interpretation of the word nefesh. Nefesh can also mean “will,” as in the pasukIm yesh es nafshechem” (If you so will it) (Bereshis 23:8). Mesiras Nefesh can also mean ‘I give up my ratzon (will).’ I don’t want to schlep to New York or Lakewood. I don’t want to go out in this lousy weather. But I do it for you. I am moser nefesh. That is an appropriate expression for overriding my will for altruistic reasons.

The Rambam is saying that mesor es atzmecha is giving up yourself for no reason other than the Ribono shel Olam. Now we can understand the example the Rambam cites. In citing that example, the Rambam refers to Yosef as “Yosef haTzaddik” (the righteous one). Why does the Rambam say Yosef haTzaddik? The Rambam does not usually give accolades when mentioning Biblical personalities.

Rav Avrohom Shor said over the following thought at an Agudah convention in the name of the Sefas Emes: The Gemara (Yoma 35b) says that after 120 years, when people come up to shomayim (heaven), if a person is poor and they ask him “Why didn’t you learn more?” and he answers “I was busy making a living,” they will tell him “You are not poorer than Hillel was, and he learned.” If a person says “I had such a large estate, so many business dealings, I was so busy that I couldn’t find time to learn” they will tell him “You were not richer than Rav Elazar ben Charsom, who learned even though he had 10,000 cities to manage.” When a wicked person comes up and they ask him “Why did you not learn more,” if he says “I was so handsome that I couldn’t control my temptations” they will tell him “You did not have a bigger temptation than Yosef.” The Gemara concludes: “It comes out that Hillel prosecutes the poor; Elazar ben Charsom prosecutes the rich; and Yosef prosecutes the wicked.”

The Sefas Emes has a problem with this last example: Someone who goes up to shomayim and is asked “Why were you so preoccupied with your passions?” will answer “I had a strong Yetzer HaRah.” He will be told “But look at Yosef HaTzaddik…” The Sefas Emes asks that this wicked person should answer “But I am not Yosef HaTzaddik! There was only one Yosef HaTzaddik. What do you want from me? Do you think every Tom, Dick, and Harry is a Yosef HaTzaddik?”

The Sefas Emes answers that Yosef’s action implanted into the spiritual DNA of all of his descendants afterwards the potential to withstand strong temptations. It is not just you; it is your heritage; it is your legacy; it is part of your DNA. That is why there is a complaint against future reshaim. Yosef put within each member of Klal Yisrael the ability to say ‘no‘ when faced with nisayonos.

That is what the Rambam means here when he describes a person abstaining from sinning – not because of fear and not because of honor – but rather, the way Yosef haTzaddik abstained. If you ask yourself “How can I?” the answer is “like Yosef haTzaddik.” He gave up his SELF (mesor ATZMECHA). You can do that as well. That is also what Rashi means when he defines Kiddush Hashem as “mesor es Atzmecha” – to give over one’s SELF for the sake of Hashem.

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]

Edited by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Emor is provided below:

  • # 010 – Can Kohanim visit Graves of Tzadikim
  • # 053 – Are Our Kohanim Really Kohanim?
  • # 096 – “Kovod Habrios”: The Concept of Human Dignity
  • # 144 – Kohanim in Hospitals: A Real Problem
  • # 191 – The Bracha for Kiddush Hashem.
  • # 281 – Kiddush Hashem: Is “Giluy Arayus” Ever Permitted?
  • # 327 – The Cohain and the Divorcee
  • # 371 – The Mitzvah of Ve’Kidashto: Honoring Kohanim
  • # 415 – The Ba’alas Teshuva and the Kohain
  • # 459 – Eliyahu Hanavi and the “Dead” Child
  • # 503 – Standing Up While Doing Mitzvos
  • # 547 – The Wayward Daughter
  • # 591 – The Kohain and the Gerusha
  • # 635 – Bracha of Mekadaish Es Shimcha B’rabim
  • # 679 – Mrs. Cohen is Having A Baby
  • # 723 – Is the Kohain Always First?
  • # 767 – Kohain, Kaddish, and Kadima
  • # 811 – Is Adultery Ever Permitted?
  • # 855 – The Brother-in-Law Who Threw Out The Ring
  • # 899 – Motrin For Your Children?
  • # 944 – Honoring Kohanim – Even Children?
  • # 986 – The Child of a Jewish Mother and Non-Jewish Father: Jewish?
  • #1030 – The Bonfires of Meiron–When Did it Start? Why? Mutar?
  • #1075 – Can I Steal Your Medicine To Save My Life?
  • #1117 – Must We Honor Leviim As Well As Kohanim?
  • #1159 – The “Morranos” of Spain: Their Halachic Status
  • #1203 – Mesiras Nefesh Challenges From Biblical Times Through the twentieth century
  • #1248 – The Challenge for the Occupational and Speech Therapist: Feeding Non-Kosher Food to a Jewish Child
  • #1291 – The Fascinating Case of the Kohain Who Showed Up In Shul After They Sold The Aliyah to A Yisroel
  • #1335 – May We Accept Tzedaka From Non-Jews
  • #1379 – Can a Kohain Accompany his Wife to the Hospital to Have Her Baby
  • #1423 – Kavod Habrios-How Far Does it Go?
  • #1467 – Birchas HaGomel During the Whole Year and During the Corona Pandemic
  • #1510 – I Said It Is Lag B’ omer Tonight- Can I Still Count Sefira with a Bracha?

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