Friday, May 06, 2011

Emor 5635 Second Ma'amar

In this week's parsha we find the mitzvah of sanctifying God's name.  This mitzvah requires us to observe our religion even at the expense of our lives.  The exact details of this mitzvah, in which situations it applies and under what conditions are all clearly laid out in the Talmud and further clarified in the writings of the poskim.  

The source of this mitzvah is the following pesukim, "ושמרתם מצותי ... ולא תחללו את שם קדשי ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל אני ה' מקדשכם.  המוציא אתכם מארץ מצרים .../You shall observe my commandments … Do not profane My holy Name; I will be sanctified among the children of Israel; I am God Who sanctifies you.  Who takes you out of the land of Egypt …" (VaYikra 22:31-33)

Rashi quotes Chazal that the proper way to perform this mitzvah is to refrain from sinning come what may and not to rely on a miracle.  Paradoxically, not relying on a miracle brings it on.  Expecting a miracle is a sure way to prevent one from happening.  Chanania, Mishael and Azaria were thrown into a den a lions not expecting to be saved.[1]  They did not rely on a miracle and were saved.  Chazal[2] relate that Nimrod threw Avraham Avinu into a fiery furnace and he was saved.  His brother Haran when given the choice between idol worship and dying in the furnace opted for the furnace fully expecting to be saved like Avraham.  He perished.

The Sfas Emes notes that we are required to perform all the mitzvos altruistically "for the sake of Heaven" rather than to derive personal benefit.  That includes the mitzvah of sanctifying God's name.  We are required to sanctify God's name without any expectation of being saved.  Why then do Chazal not simply state that the mitzvah of sanctifying God's name must be done for the sake of Heaven and not with the intent of deriving personal benefit?  Why do Chazal make a point of addressing this issue separately for this mitzvah?

There is something paradoxical about this particular mitzvah.  What sanctifies God's name – being killed or being saved through a clear miracle?  Obviously God's name is sanctified when we are saved through a miracle.[3]  The hand of God is revealed as working in favor of the Jewish people.  How then, is God's name sanctified when we give our lives for Him?

The truth is that the main sanctification of God's name is when we are saved by a miracle.  The primary intent of this mitzvah is to cause this sanctification by following God without any concern for what may happen to us as a result.  This is why Chazal make a point of telling us that to fulfill this mitzvah properly we must refrain from sinning regardless of the consequences, even if we are threatened with death.  It is only then that God will reveal Himself by suspending nature in order to save us thus causing a clear sanctification of His name.  If we refrain from sinning expecting to be saved through a miracle we will not be saved and there will be no sanctification of His name.

With this concept we can understand why the Torah adds the last pasuk above to this mitzvah.  The last pasuk states that God took us out of Egypt.  What is the connection between the Exodus and the mitzvah of sanctifying God's name?  Of course the Exodus was an extreme sanctification of God's name.  Divine Providence suspended the laws of nature and all of Egypt recognized God.  The key point is that God performed these miracles in order that His name be sanctified.  Saving us was the vehicle. 

So too, the mitzvah of sanctifying God's name teaches us that God performs miracles not so much to save us per se, but rather to sanctify His name.  Our role is crucial.  God wants us to cause miracles because they are a way of making His name known amongst the nations.  And we cause miracles by subordinating our own nature for the sake of Heaven.

[1] Daniel 3:16-29
[2] Breishis R. 38:13
[3] When Jews are killed the nations say, "איה א-להיך/Where is your God?"  Is there a bigger profanation of God's name than this?!

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