By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman
This week’s Parsha Perspective is dedicated by Mr. Binyomin Philipson in memory of his late mother Mrs. Ellen (Elka bas Zisel) Philipson OBM
There was a time when Jewish people's faith in the one G-d of Israel was challenged on a regular basis. During the Crusades, for example, many thousands of Jews were forced to choose between the cross and the sword: to either deny their Judaism and embrace the dominant faith, or die. Countless Jews gave their lives al kiddush Hashem -- "in sanctification of the name of G-d." They became martyrs for their faith and heroes for eternity.
Thankfully, today it doesn't often happen that we have to make that choice. Tragically, we still have far too many martyrs nowadays; Jews who are blown apart by maniacal suicide bombers for no other reason than that they are Jewish. But they weren't asked to make a choice. They didn't choose martyrdom. It was forced upon them.
The Parsha this week, Emor, (Vayikra (Leviticus) 21:1-24:23) discusses the commandments to sanctify the name of G‑d and never to desecrate it (Leviticus 22:32). Generally, today, the concept of kiddush Hashem, sanctifying the name of G‑d, is observed not by dying as Jews but by living as Jews.
How does a Jew give G‑d a good name? When he or she behaves as a good Jew should. When other people see a Jew behaving honestly and uprightly, that gives Jews and Judaism a good reputation. And ultimately it all goes back to Torah, the word of G‑d. G‑d Himself gets the credit for the noble behavior of His people.
Some classic scenarios would be returning money if you were given incorrect change in your favor or calling attention to the fact that a client overpaid you. Although it is only right to do these things, the fact is that others might have kept quiet about it. When a Jew acts with honor he brings honor to his faith and his G‑d.
Sadly, it also works in the reverse. Jewish people accused of being slumlords do not give Jews, or the G‑d of Israel, a good name - especially when there may be some grounds for the accusation.
Albert Einstein is reputed to have once stated, "If my theories prove correct, the Germans will claim me as a German, the French will say I am theirs and the Americans will call me their own. If my theories are incorrect, they will all say I am a Jew."
How proud are we when one of our own does something especially noteworthy like winning a Nobel Prize or performing a valiant humanitarian act. Conversely, how ashamed are we if there is a moral or financial scandal involving one of our own.
I once protested to the general manager of a radio station in our community because I felt he was giving far too much exposure to Jews and Judaism in relation to our numbers and, unfortunately, the publicity wasn't always flattering. At first he denied it. But when I presented him with statistical proof, his plain and honest answer was "Jews are news."
Fair or not, the fact of life is that Jews are scrutinized far more carefully than others. Like it or not, every Jew is representing his faith, his people and his G‑d. Ultimately, how we act will bring fame or infamy upon all of us. May we all be proper and successful ambassadors.
(Excerpts from Chabad.org - from Rabbi Yossy Goldman)
A Meaningful and Uplifting Shabbos to all!