web analytics
October 2, 2014 / 8 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



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.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Which glass has the poison?
State Dept. Complains New Homes in Jerusalem ‘Poison’ US Peace Plan
Latest Judaism Stories
Duxvielfalt_2011

Contrary to popular belief, the Talmud never explicitly limits the ban on footwear to leather shoes.

On Sunday, Jews will be refraining from food and drink from dawn until sunset to commemorate the Fast of Gedaliah. Following Nebuchadnetzar’s destruction of the First Temple and exile of most of the Jews, the Babylonians appointed Gedaliah ben Achikaam as governor of Judea. Under Gedaliah’s leadership, Judea and the survivors began to recover. On […]

On the beach

As we enter the Days of Awe, we must recognize that it is a joy to honor and serve true royalty.

On Rosh Hashanah we are taught that true self-analysis involves the breaking down of walls

When we hear the words “Rosh Hashana is coming” it really means Hashem Himself is coming!

Who am I? What are the most important things in my life? What do I want to be remembered for? If, as a purely hypothetical exercise, I were to imagine reading my own obituary, what would I want it to say? These are the questions Rosh Hashanah urges us to ask ourselves. As we pray […]

We recently marked the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11 – that terrible day when the symbols of man’s power and achievement crumbled before our eyes and disappeared in fire and smoke. For a very brief moment we lost our smugness. Our confidence was shaken. Many of us actually searched our ways. Some of us even learned […]

Why am I getting so agitated? And look how we’re treating each other!

While women are exempt from actually learning Torah, they are obligated in a different aspect of the mitzvah.

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

We must eat, sleep, work, and care for our dependants. How much time is left over after all that?

Once we recognize that our separation from God is our fault, how do we repair it?

Chatzitzah And Its Applications
‘Greater Stringency Applies To Hallowed Things…’
(Chagiga 20b-21a)

To choose life, you must examine your actions in the period preceding the Days of Awe as an unbiased stranger, and render your decision.

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: