web analytics
March 6, 2015 / 15 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Parsha »

The Disney Museum Of Kiddush Hashem

YU-070414-Figures

Outsmarted by a donkey. The archenemy of the Jewish people defeated by a talking animal. Such an event would seem to belong in the museum of Divine miracles as the lead exhibit. A display like that would spectacularly represent G-d’s protection of the Jewish people; surely preserving such a symbol would be quite a Kiddush Hashem.

Nonetheless, the Midrash relates that, in fact, the opposite happened. G-d arranged that the donkey would not be around to be seen. This was done out of consideration for Bilam’s honor; a living example that he was inferior to his own donkey would have been the source of considerable embarrassment. G-d’s concern for the honor of even a wicked man, explains the Midrash, models for us the basic respect we must have for the dignity of all humans.

An understanding of this phenomenon is somewhat challenging. It is not difficult to see that since people are created in the Divine image, honor and respect shown to a human being translates as honor to their Creator. Nonetheless, it could also be assumed that the honor of G-d Himself would be inclusive of all such gestures, and thus has no purpose in deferring to that of the creation, at best a secondary representation. Certainly Bilam, an almost paradigmatic example of opposition to G-d’s will, is an unworthy recipient of honor, in light of the testament to G-d’s majesty that would be evident in the miracle of a speaking animal.

This question is already present in a core principle of halacha. The Talmud states that kavod habriyot, respect for basic human dignity, is such a powerful concept that it overwhelms some areas of Jewish law (Berachot 19b, Shabbat 81b, etc.). Included within these areas are returning lost property, rabbinical law, and passively violated points of Biblical law (shev v’al taaseh).

It thus bears determining the mechanism by which the maintenance of personal self-respect overpowers religious obligations. One of the listed categories, that of monetary matters, may provide a crucial clue. R. Moshe Sofer (Chiddushei Chatam Sofer to Shabbat) explains that the relevant concept here is that of mechilah, of “forgiving” that to which one is entitled. Certainly, an individual has a number of personal rights granted to him by the Torah, among them having his lost property returned to him. Nonetheless, it is assumed that no Jew would insist on his rights if it meant the degradation of another. Thus, it can be assumed that an implicit mechilah is in effect in such instances, allowing the concern for human dignity full attention. With this foundation, R. Sofer continues, an extrapolation may be made to the supersession of rabbinical precepts as well. Although the honor due to the talmudic authorities mandates obedience to their dictates, they forgive the obligations of their own honor in favor of that of the individual, much as does the possessor of monetary rights.

However, this leads us to a shocking conclusion. We have seen that even passively violated points of Biblical law are permitted when human dignity is at stake. This suggests that not only the property owners and the rabbis but even G-d Himself waives His honor to protect that of the individual. This raises the same issue as above: Why should G-d pass on His own honor, in preference of a human, who is only honored for being in the image of G-d? Why not cut out the middleman?

The key may lie in a paradox that exists within the concept of honor. The great ethicists (see, for example, Shevet Mussar ch. 43) point to an inconsistency in the behavior of vain individuals. With an exaggerated sense of self-worth, they feel little regard for the status of others. Nonetheless, if they really felt this way, the very honor and adulation they so prize would be worthless, for of what value is the esteem of an insignificant person? Thus, they are forced to consider other individuals worthy, only to the extent necessary to accept their praise. Thus, receiving honor is only possible if it is first ceded somewhat to those from whom it is desired.

About the Author: Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman is rosh yeshiva at Yeshvia University-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Disney Museum Of Kiddush Hashem”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Iran’s Zarif Paints Iran as a Lamb, Israel as the Lion
Latest Judaism Stories
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

To the glee of all Israel haters it was Netanyahu who was accused of endangering US-Israel relations

Ki Tisa_lecture

Over and over, the text tells us about “keeping” Shabbat, about holiness, and a covenant – but why?

Aaron and  The Golden Calf by James Tissot

Aharon’s guilt with the golden calf is not clear-cut. What if Moshe were in his brother’s place?

The Sabbath is a full dress rehearsal for an ideal society that has not yet come to pass-but will

When Hashem told Moshe of the option to destroy the people and make him and his descendants into a great nation, Hashem was telling Moshe that it is up to him.

Just like Moses and Aaron, Mordechai decides to ruin the party…

An Auto Accident
‘All Agree That They Are Exempt’
(Kesubbos 35a)

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

Why would the exemption of women from donating the half shekel exempt them from davening Musaf?

This concept should be very relevant to us as we, too, should be happy beyond description.

The Holocaust was the latest attempt of Amalek to destroy the special bond that we enjoy with God.

One can drink up to the Talmud’s criterion to confuse Mordechai and Haman-but not beyond.

“The voice is the voice of Yaakov, but the hands are the hands of Esav” gives great insight to Purim

Purim is the battleground of extremes, Amalek and Yisrael, with Zoroastrian Persia in between.

More Articles from Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman
YU-070414-Figures

Respect for basic human dignity is such a powerful concept that it overwhelms some areas of Jewish law.

YU-051013

By the time these words are printed, there will be only a few more days left before Shavuos. We hope that up until that point, we will still have been counting the days of Sefiras Ha’Omer with a bracha, but we also know that too often, despite our best efforts, we drop out of counting with a bracha some time before the count is complete.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/the-disney-museum-of-kiddush-hashem/2014/07/04/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: