Parshas Emor 2018: Eat the Bullet
There is a mitzvah (commandment) in the Torah that potentially can be fulfilled be everyone but isn’t. This mitzvah is to die “al kiddush Hashem” (for the sake of G-d).
Emor contains 63 mitzvos; 24 positive (performative) and 39 negative (prohibitive). Of these 63, Mitzvah #295 and Mitzvah #296 (of the 613) are both very important and have very practical everyday application.
Mitzvah #295 is, “And you shall not desecrate My holy Name” and Mitzvah #296 is, “So that I may be sanctified among the children of Israel”. These two mitzvos are actually part of the same passuk as it says, “You shall not desecrate My holy Name, so that I may be sanctified among the people…” (Leviticus 22:32)
We are forbidden to do anything that will desecrate Hashem’s Name. In Hebrew this is called a “chillul Hashem.” When we can, we are supposed to sanctify His Name bringing about “kiddush Hashem”.
To be m’challel (desecrate) is not only to outright curse Hashem (G-d forbid) but even if a person sins merely because G-d is insignificant to him, this is too is called desecrating G-d’s Name. Furthermore, if he were to do it in front of ten people then, it’s even greater as its considered to have desecrated Hashem’s Name in public. On the flip side, if one were to do a mitzvah not for reasons of pressure, money, or honor, but because it’s Hashem’s will, this person has sanctified His Name.
According to the Gemora in Yoma, to be m’challel (verb) Hashem’s name is the most serious sin of all the sins because it’s the most difficult to atone for. If one was m’challel he should proceed by sanctifying Hashem’s Name in a manner that is similar to the way he desecrated it. In fact, we find this theme rather often. For example, we are taught if one spoke Lashon Hara (gossip/slander) he should learn and verbalize words of Torah. One who gazed in forbidden areas is encouraged to repent with tears. As Rabbeinu Bachya puts it, one who has committed “bunches” of avairos (sins) should correct them with “bunches” of mitzvos.
While we frequently have the opportunity to avoid chillul Hashem, there is in fact, a time when both of these two mitzvos can be fulfilled in the same moment.
This verse above is the general mitzvah to give up one’s life to honor Hashem such as when one forced into idolatry, immorality, and murder to save his life. For example, if held at gunpoint and told to transgress a mitzvah in the Torah, one MUST transgress to save his life. Life comes first unless, the sin that he is forced to do is one of the three cardinal sins (above), he is not only required to not desecrate, but he will now be fulfilling the positive commandment of being m’kadish sheim shamayim (sanctifying Him) by dying instead.
While most of us are not faced with this scenario and probably never will be (G-d Willing), the conscious acceptance of “eating the bullet” is the concept of dying al kiddish Hashem and is rewarded as such in the next world.
At the very least we should try and come to this acceptance that if we would be faced with this challenge we too would be willing to protect and sanctify Hashem’s Name. Do we ever really stop to think about being faced with this decision? How strong is our commitment to Hashem?
Have a wonderful Shabbos and weekend!
Maverick V. Peters