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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘His Name’

Parashat Emor

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

“You shall not desecrate My holy Name, rather I should be sanctified among the Children of Israel; I am HaShem Who sanctifies you, Who took you out of the land of Egypt to be a God unto you; I am HaShem.” (VAYIKRA 22:32-33)

The Rambam explains this commandment by teaching that “the entire House of Israel is commanded regarding the great mitzvah of Kiddush HaShem, as (VAYIKRA 22:32) states: `I should be sanctified among the Children of Israel.’ Also, they are warned against desecrating (His holy Name), as (the above verse) states: `You shall not desecrate My holy Name’.” (Yesodei HaTorah 5:1)

These mitzvot are given to each and every Jew to be safeguarded in our private lives and also to the Hebrew Nation to be performed as a collective. It is our responsibility to actively sanctify – and guard against desecrating – GoD’s Name through our personal behavior. In both the company of fellow Jews and in the presence of gentiles, we must be relentlessly careful to conduct ourselves with morality, consideration towards others and honest financial dealings. A Jew must always be conscious that the Hebrew Nation represents HaShem in this world and that Israel is a direct reflection of His Divine Ideal. Due to the merit of this tremendous responsibility, we must be careful to never behave in a way that could cause others to look negatively upon the Jewish people.

While the modern Torah world certainly emphasizes these teachings on an individual level, the importance of these concepts on a national level is regrettably often ignored. In order to fully understand the idea of Kiddush HaShem on a collective scale, we must look into the Books of our Prophets – prophecies meant to educate us on how to function as a strong and healthy nation on our native soil.

“So I poured My anger upon them because of the blood that they poured upon the earth – and they defiled it with their idols – so I scattered them among the nations and they were dispersed among the lands. According to their ways and their doings did I judge them; and they came to the nations to which they came, and they desecrated My holy Name when it was said of them, `These are HaShem’s people, but they departed His land’; but I pitied My holy Name that the House of Israel desecrated among the nations to which they came.” (YEHEZKEL 36:18-21)

HaShem rebukes Am Yisrael for desecrating His Name among the nations. It is important to note that God does not accuse Israel of desecrating His Name through breaking any specific precept. Rather He is condemning Israel for desecrating His Name by the very reality of being scattered amongst the nations. In the previous verse, HaShem clearly states that it was He Who had scattered Israel throughout the world as a consequence of our sins. So then why should He rebuke the Jewish people for the very punishment that He Himself inflicted upon us?

This question reveals a profound truth concerning how God’s Name is perceived in our world. While Jews may have understood through the many centuries in foreign lands that HaShem had temporarily exiled us from our soil as a result of our transgressions, other nations view reality from a different perspective. Gentiles could easily argue that while our God had promised to make us a mighty nation and to bring us into our homeland where we would enjoy independence, security and abundance, Jews are scattered throughout the world and are very often victims of brutal persecution. God therefore decrees that the very exile – which He Himself brought about – is an objective desecration of His Name because it causes the nations to question His power.

The word chilul (desecration) stems from the root word chalal (emptiness), meaning that a profanation of God’s Name appears to empty His Divine Presence from the world and causes people to doubt His very existence. Because Israel is the national expression of HaShem, the nations judge God based on how they view His nation. When gentiles are ruling over and persecuting Jews, they see this not only as a sign of Jewish weakness but also as the weakness – or non-existence – of Israel’s God.

It is known that during the Holocaust in Europe, Nazi guards in the death camps would often taunt their Jewish victims with comments that inferred our God could not exist. For the Germans it was a simple equation. If there had existed a God of Israel, He would surely have intervened on His people’s behalf. Therefore, an event like the Holocaust (although each individual Jew who was killed died a death of Kiddush HaShem on a personal level) was a desecration of God’s Name on a national level. The mass victimization of the Jewish people brought the world to doubt the very existence of HaShem.

Q & A: What Constitutes Shemot (Part II)

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Since my daughter in high school started researching the topic of shemot for her school newspaper, I have become more and more confused. Does shemot only include items, such as books and sheets of papers, with Hashem’s name on them? Or does it even include items containing Torah concepts or even just Hebrew letters? For example, how do you advise I dispose of The Jewish Press? Finally, concerning Hashem’s name, must the name be spelled out fully in Hebrew to constitute shemot? What if it is in English in abbreviated form – “G-d,” for example?

Shlomo Newfield

(Via E-Mail)

Answer: The Mechaber (Yoreh De’ah 276:9-10), referring to writing and repairing a Sefer Torah, specifies certain names of G-d that may not be erased once written: Kel from Elo-kim and Kah (which is either a name in itself or part of the name of Hava’yah. The Rema (ad loc.) includes alef-daled from Adnut and alef-heh from Eh-yeh. These halachot extend to any writing, but authorities differ on whether they apply to languages other than Hebrew.

My uncle, Harav Sholom Klass, zt”l, helped popularize the accepted style of omitting a letter in the English words “G-d” and “L-rd” in The Jewish Press from its very inception in 1960. In “Responsa of Modern Judaism II,” two of his responses address this issue. The first (Book II, p. 535) stresses that the holiness of G-d’s name is related to it being written in Hebrew. The Rambam (Hilchos Tefilla 14:10) writes, based on various statements in the Gemara,  that when Shimon Hatzaddik died, his fellow kohanim stopped using the Holy Name (Shem Hameforash) so that disrespectful and unruly people would not learn it, since the Holy Spirit departed from the Temple.

Many discussions appear in halacha regarding versions of G-d’s names that imply specific characteristics of G-d and whether they may be erased once written. The Shach (Yoreh De’ah 179:11) writes that while the name of G-d is holy only in Hebrew and may be erased – since the word “G-d” in a secular language is not His true name – it is still preferable to be as careful as possible. The Beth Yosef (Tur, Yoreh De’ah 276) quotes the Rashbatz’s opinion that G-d’s name is not holy and may be erased – whether written in Hebrew or any other language – if it was written without any intent of holiness.  The Beth Lechem Yehuda (Yoreh De’ah 276:10) agrees with the intention requirement, especially in a secular language, and stresses that if the name was intended for a holy purpose, we are not to erase or discard it.

The Aruch HaShulchan (Yoreh De’ah 276:24) quotes the Rema and other poskim to explain that the name of G-d which appears in our siddurim (the letter “yud” twice) may be erased if necessary. He also quotes the Tashbatz who warns that while the name of G-d in different languages may be erased, we still avoid writing it because it may be discarded into a trash basket and will put the Holy Name to shame. In Choshen Mishpat 27:3, the Aruch HaShulchan decries the custom of writing letters in any language using the name of G-d since they are discarded, and when G-d’s name is put to shame, respect for G-d erodes and poverty descends on the world.

We now continue with the second related responsum by Rabbi Sholom Klass, zt”l (Book II, p. 533):

*  *  *  *  * “No builder or manufacturer likes to see his products discarded. We put so much effort into [The Jewish Press] that we would hate to see it go to waste. Why not give the paper to a friend or neighbor and tell them to do the same when they finish reading it?

“It is for this reason (if the paper will be destroyed) that we abbreviate the name of G-d. For some maintain that the name of G-d may not be written if it is to be thrown away, for then His Name would be profaned.

“The Gemara (Rosh Hashana 18b) explains it this way:

“On the third day of Tishrei the mention of G-d in bonds and notes was abolished. For the Syrian government had forbidden the mention of G-d’s name by the Israelites and when the Hasmoneans became strong and defeated them, they ordained that they should mention the name of G-d even on bonds and notes, and they used to write thus: ‘In the year so-and-so of Johanan, High Priest to the Most High G-d.’ When the Sages heard it they said: ‘Tomorrow this man will pay his debt and the bond will be thrown into the dirt.’ (And the name of G-d will be profaned.)

“They stopped this practice and made that day a feast day.

“On the other hand, if the Name is not intended for holy purposes, we may write it in full or erase it (Tosafot, Shevuot 35a and Tosafot, Avoda Zara 18a, s.v. Hogeh Hashem). The Beth Lechem Yehuda (Yoreh De’ah 276:10) authorizes the usage of the name of G-d such as is inscribed on coins, if it was intended leshem chol, for secular purposes.”

But I’m A ‘Pretty Good’ Person

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Last week I concluded my column with the story of a Jew who wanted to make changes in the world and inspire people to do teshuvah – to return to their roots, their Divine heritage.

Fortified with the blessings of his Rebbe, he set out on his mission only to encounter frustration after frustration. Disappointed, he returned to his Rebbe who suggested to him that instead of focusing on others he should focus on himself and consider how he might change. That advice of the Rebbe speaks to all of us, but it’s one thing to say these words and something else to apply them to our personal lives.

Some years ago, at one of my Torah shiurim, I touched on this very subject. Following the class, a woman approached me and said, “Rebbetzin, I agree with you. People must change, and this includes me. I must admit I have one major fault – I’m too good! I allow people to take advantage of me.”

Most of us will dismiss such a remark with a wry smile and attribute it to an egocentric, self-absorbed personality. But before we respond so glibly, let us take a few moments to reflect. Don’t most of us believe that while we may have some faults, by and large we are pretty decent human beings? After all, we rationalize, is it not written that there is no man who is without sin? So, everything considered, we assure ourselves that basically we are “pretty good” people. We shrug our shoulders and move on, confident the entire discussion is not relevant to us.

But no matter how confident we may feel in our self-absorption, the month of Elul is upon us and the sound of the shofar summons us, demanding we wake up and answer G-d’s call before, Heaven forbid, tragedy strikes. In the privacy of our chambers, let us take a look in our spiritual mirrors at our neshamas. Let us search our souls and ask, “How can I improve myself?” “How can I become a better person?” “Where do I start?” “What must I do?”

And even as we undergo this scrutiny, let us bear in mind the world is on fire, though most people refuse to see the flames and understand our Jewish lives are at risk.

There is a new Hitler on the earth’s stage who shamelessly, unabashedly, and without fear has proclaimed his intention to launch a new Holocaust. Once again you might dismiss such threats and comfort yourself by saying, “He’s just a madman.” But as a survivor of the Holocaust, I can tell you that madmen have to be taken seriously precisely because they are mad – mad enough to carry out their threats.

Now, if push came to shove, can you think of even one nation that would rise to our defense or even speak out on our behalf? Our long, tormented history testifies that we are a lone lamb among seventy wolves, all standing ready to devour us. Were it not for G-d, “the Guardian of Israel Who neither sleeps not slumbers,” we would long ago have been destroyed. From days of yore to this very moment in time, the Haggadah of Pesach speaks to us: “B’chol dor v’dor – In every generation they rise to destroy us, but our G-d, blessed be His Name, saves us from their clutches.”

Still, the question remains – How should we embark upon this journey of self- change? With which mitzvah should we commence?

The answer should be obvious to all who have some knowledge of our long, painful history. We were launched into our present exile about two thousand years ago because of the sin of sinas chinam – unwarranted hatred, animosity and jealousy between Jew and Jew, brother and brother. It was this sin that sealed the final decree, set our Temple aflame and razed Jerusalem. But, specifically, what does that mean? What bearing does that have on our self-change? Obviously, since unwarranted hatred was the cause of our downfall, we must purge ourselves of that evil and turn to our G-d as one unified, cohesive family.

Again, though, with which precise mitzvah under the canopy of commandments between man and man should we commence?

The answer is the one closest to us – the one mitzvah we have all violated without even being aware of it: kibud av v’em, honoring our parents.

If we learn to have that under control, then the other commandments between man and man will fall into place.

Here again we may dismiss these words and congratulate ourselves that all this has no relevance to us. On the whole, we have been careful about rendering respect to our mothers and fathers, and if on an occasion or two we lost it, it was because we were unfairly irritated, mistreated, and our nerves were on edge.

We are told that in the period of ikvese d’Mashiach, when discerning ears will be able to hear the footsteps of Mashiach, chutzpah will intensify to outrageous proportions. And so those of us who believe we have fulfilled our responsibilities can make such claims only because we have also been bitten by this chutzpah poison and have no clue as to what that mitzvah entails. We are so far removed from the commandment of honoring parents that we do not know what we do not know!

Yet it is on the foundation of this mitzvah of honoring parents that all commandments pertaining to man and his fellow man are built. Our predicament becomes even more complex because we live in a culture in which children are actually abusive of their parents. And that abuse is tolerated and accepted as the norm. There is a saying in Yiddish, “As the non-Jewish world goes, so goes the Jewish world,” meaning the influence of the dominant culture trickles into our own domain and renders us vulnerable and endangered.

(To Be Continued)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/but-im-a-pretty-good-person-2/2011/08/24/

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