This week’s Parshah discusses the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem (22:32). Regarding this mitzvah, the Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 296) states: “a person was only created to serve his Creator” and he goes on to explain that someone who does not perform a Kiddush Hashem has not fulfilled their (life’s) mission. The Sefer HaChinuch then spends many pages discussing the many details of the tremendous Mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem. However, the cases that he discusses are ONLY cases of giving up one’s life al (for) Kiddush Hashem.

Nowadays, where Baruch Hashem our lives are usually not openly & literally threatened over keeping Torah & Mitzvos – do we have any opportunity to fulfill this Mitzvah to the height of perfection, in any sense equal to that of those who gave over their lives al Kiddush Hashem – one of the most monumental Mitzvos in the Torah?

It is also important to note that Chazal also teach us how terrible a Chillul Hashem is (see Yoma 86a). If one, chas v’shalom, inadvertently did a Chillul Hashem, is there any way to rectify the damage that was done, and if so, how?

You may have not heard of Sidney Poitier, but in the secular world, he was a towering figure for much of his life.

Who was he? Sidney was granted knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974. In 1995, he received the Kennedy Center Honor. From 1997 to 2007, he was the Bahamian Ambassador to Japan. In 2009, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. In 2016, he was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship for outstanding lifetime achievement. In 2000, he received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. In 2002, he was given an Honorary Academy Award, in recognition of his "remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being”.

At least publicly, amongst the goyim, he stood for moral-values and belief in G-d. He also had powerful influence and was very wealthy.

Who was responsible for all of his success in life? After all, when he arrived to the United States, he could not read any English, he had a very thick accent, and he had little visible talent.

Now, if someone asked Sidney this question directly, most people would have expected him to accredit it to his own skill, hard work or grit. Perhaps, he would even give some credit to G-D. However, when asked this question, the answer that he gave was quite surprising.

In an interview with CBS’s Lesley Stahl in 2013, the famous Sidney said it all started when he went to work as a dishwasher in a Queens New York restaurant, where he met the elderly Jewish waiter who would change his life and to who he accredits all of his life’s successes to:

“…One of the waiters, a Jewish elderly man, walked past me struggling to read a newspaper. He asked me, ‘what’s new in the paper?’. I looked up at this man and said ‘I cannot tell you, because I can barely read’. He looked at me and said, ‘would you like me to read with you and teach you how to read?’. I replied ‘yes’. Now, let me tell you something…”. At this point in the interview, Sidney becomes visibly emotional, his eyes visibly fill with tears just talking about this even that happened decades earlier, he chokes up and his voice quivers. “Every. Single. Night. When the restaurant was closed, the place was closed, everyone was gone, and he sat there with me week after week after week, teaching me how to read. I learned a lot, a lot [from him]”.

We are intended by Hashem to be a light unto the nations*. Of course, one can do so in the face of the darkest circumstances and adversity, by giving up one’s life. However, the Gemara (Yoma 86a) explains that one can also fulfill the Mitzvah D’oraiysa of Kiddush Hashem regularly, by acting in a refined & pleasant manner that makes “the name of Heaven [Hashem] beloved through you”** (see Rambam Yesodei HaTorah 5:11).

Additionally, there is actually another deeply-meaningful method of Kiddush Hashem -  one that not everyone is aware of - and opportunities to be Mikadesh Hashem this way comes up even more often and at all times:

The Rambam (Yesodei Ha’Torah 5:10) says that one can also fulfill the Mitzvah D’oraiysa of Kiddush Hashem by “refraining from an aveirah, or doing a mitzvah, not because of fear…or seeking honor, but solely because Hashem commanded him to do so…this person is making a Kiddush Hashem”. The opportunity to fulfill this comes up REGULARLY.

Dying al (for) Kiddush Hashem, is certainly extremely powerful and its value is beyond measure. However, it is an act that is done once and it is over in a few moments. But regularly LIVING each and every day al Kiddush Hashem, can in a sense be just as impactful and the opportunities to do so are readily available.

Regarding rectifying a Chillul Hashem, Rabbeinu Yonah*** explains that one can rectify a Chillul Hashem by regularly performing a Kiddush Hashem. As mentioned above, there are many opportunities to do so.

Living Inspired

We all have the opportunity to regularly make a Kiddush Hashem, to declare Hashem’s absolute sovereignty through concrete action, on a consistent basis each and every day by acting in an exemplary manner – or - by refraining from an aveirah or doing a mitzvah solely because that is Hashem’s Will.

May we all take advantage of this incredible zechus that Kiddush Hashem accomplishes, thereby fulfilling a primary purpose of our existence and of our life’s mission. May we all work to do so today.

Gut Shabbos


*- Yeshaiyahu 42:6, 49:6 and 60:3

**- I once heard from an army chaplain that before he was deployed to a far-off, small country in Africa, he was warned by his commanding officer “you must put tremendous thought and deliberation into this trip. Your uniform, actions, mannerism, body language, etc. must be especially perfect at all times. Where you will be going, most of them have never even heard of an American, let alone seen one. What you do, say and look like, will be etched in their collective memory for all time – that this is the way an American does things, this is the way an American speaks, this is what an American looks like, etc. Don’t forget that for even a moment”.

If this is true for an American army chaplain, lehavdil elef alfei havdalos vi’rivei ri’vavos, how much more so must all of us Yidden bear this in mind regarding ourselves; our actions, speech, appearance etc. all represent Hashem and is the only model that the world has, in order to understand how Hashem wants mankind to behave.

***- In Sha’arei Teshuva, Sha’ar Rivi’i, Ois Tes Zayin. He also mentions that one can also rectify making a Chillul Hashem by learning Torah regularly.