Thursday, October 05, 2006

Kiddush Hashem and Chillul Hashem

As Jews, we have a responsibility to represent not only ourselves and our families, but our people as well. Whether it's right or wrong, one blunder while wearing a kippa could cause an ignorant person to attribute that blunder to all Jews; and the same works vice versa. Essentially, I think the mainstream definition of a Chillul Hashem is a situation where non-Jews or non-frum Jews think less of the Jewish/frum population due to the actions of the (frum) Jew. On the other hand, a Kiddush Hashem is made when one positively represents the Jewish people to the outside/non-frum world.

I think these definitions are wrong. I think they deserve a more literal translation.

I think a Kiddush Hashem (KH) is, literally, when one does something to sanctify G-d. Not necessarily sanctifying G-d to other people (although it could be); sanctifying G-d is possible when there is no one around. So how do we make a KH? Simple. Do things that G-d wants us to do; things that (we think) makes G-d happy. How do we make a Chillul Hashem (CH)? Do things that G-d doesn't want us to do.

So what are the practical differences between these two definitions? A couple cases in point:

There is/was a case in town of a guy that wouldn't give his wife a get. After futile protests at his residence, a protest was planned at the University of Baltimore law school, where he was a student. Many people felt this was a ridiculous thing to do, as they would be causing a massive CH for anyone who was around and curious enough to ask. The passersby would inevitably ask what is going on, and they would then be told that in Judaism, only a man can divorce his wife, and not vice versa. This would surely cause them to think negatively about the Jews. This, precisely, is what the dissenters claim to be the reason for not having the protest downtown. I disagree. I, after some thought, was 100% in favor of this protest, assuming those who planned it really thought they had a chance to make progress. Why? I don't think the CH in this case is the potential negative views of the passersby. The CH, in this case, is the fact that the guy won't give his wife a get. This surely doesn't please Hashem. Any progress towards getting this guy to give the get is, IMHO, better than staying silent and keeping Hashem angry. While I do not deny that a certain CH would be created by this protest, I think the potential KH outweighs this CH.

A friend recently told me about an incident at his work, where his boss is a Kippa-wearing Jew. Basically, the boss had an idea which he wanted to implement in order to save what, in the opinion of the employees, was a meager amount of money. One of his co-workers said something along the lines of, "You know, I hate to say this, but after all he is Jewish..." This instance obviously caused the coworker to think less of the Jews by perpetuating the stereotype of Jews being cheap. Perhaps one could claim that men at work shouldn't wear kippas, for anything they do is likely to be scrutinized and attributed to his Jewish heritage. Likely, anything good that this yid does will be attributed to the fact that he's a nice guy (but not a nice JEWISH guy), while anything bad will be attributed to the kippa. Anyway, I think the KH, in this case, is the fact that this guy is proud enough about his Yiddishkeit to wear a Kippa. The CH, IMHO, would be for the guy to take off his kippa out of the fear of misattributions. I would like to think that Hashem likes when his people are proud of their heritage (without throwing it in peoples' faces) and not ashamed of who they are. (I would like to add here that obviously there are professions in which wearing a Kippa is not conducive the work conditions due to conscious/unconscious biases that could affect parnasa[ie, lawyers]. I'm not talking about this guy)

While I definitely think we need to see ourselves as representatives for our people as a whole, I don't think this is the only critera defining KH and CH. We also need to keep in mind what Hashem really wants from us and our actions, and weigh these two (often) conflicting definitions when considering how we should act.


Anonymous Greg said...

Technically speaking, KH and CH are really only within the context of mitzvot. A KH, by definition, is when one sanctifies God's name by following his commandments (hence, dying "al kiddush hashem" is when you die rather than transgress a cardinal sin), which is sort of what you said, but not really.

So, applying this to the various situations you present: the agunah case, probably a chillul hashem for him not to give a get, since that is the assumed will of the bais din. And certainly a kiddush hashem to stand up for the agunah. Wearing a kippah is not really a halachic issue, so I'm not sure how it fits in here. Either way, I don't think it's our problem to worry about whether or not some guy is a jackass or not.

12:32 AM, October 06, 2006

Blogger SephardiLady said...

I commented somewhere else regarding rallies in support of agunot that anyone who has any media contact already knows that only a man can give his wife a get. We cannot help it if these people don't like the halacha or believe that something should be done to change it.

I do not think it is a chillul Hashem to stand up and try to convince a man to do the right thing and give his wife a get. But, for good people to sit back and do nothing is a certain way for evil to prevail.

8:42 AM, October 06, 2006

Blogger Danny the Manny said...

Greg is the freakin' man. I want to be him when I grow up.

12:53 PM, October 06, 2006


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