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The Elements of Jewish Living

Jewish Self Consciousness

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Do not shame My holy name; sanctify me amongst the people of Israel, I am G-d. (Vayikra 22; 32)
This is a strange juxtaposition. Chilul Hashem is the biggest aveira. Kidush Hashem is the biggest mitzva. One would think that the person prone to making a chilul Hashem is very far removed from the great mitzva of making a kidush Hashem. What are these two people doing in the same verse? 
The answer is painfully simple. When a Jew, a good Jew, is not making a kidush Hashem it is a chilul Hashem! It is a chilul Hashem not to make a kidush Hashem.  Kidush Hashem is not just about jumping into fire. The way we talk, the way we interact with others, the way we conduct business, the way we talk to our children, the way we dress, the way we treat our elderly, even the way we walk down the street - are all opportunities for a kiddush Hashem. Being that it is expected of us as a holy people to act with dignity and integrity, if we don’t live up to that expectation it is a chilul Hashem! 
I heard Rav Pam quoted as telling the following story. The Chofetz Chaim once sent his son on a mission. The Chofetz Chaim warned his son to be careful as to how he acts. For if he would act in a fashion which was even slightly inappropriate for a Torah scholar, it would be a desecration of G-d’s Name. The Chofetz Chaim’s son protested, “But father, I am not a Talmid Chochom, I am a simple Jew!” The Chofetz Chaim responded, “To create a Chilul Hashem, you are enough of a Talmid Chochom”. (I may have heard this from Rabbi Yissachar Frand)
My Rebbe once put it very succinctly. Life is very confusing and decision making is so complex, yet before acting there is really only one question that a Jew must ask himself, ‘Will this be a kidush Hashem or a chilul Hashem? It’s one or the other, there is no parve.” When I first heard these words I found them quite harsh. Do we have to feel the pressure of self-evaluation all the time? If everything we do is either a mitzva or an aveira, when do we just live? Can’t we just relax? 
I remember once being asked to address a very secular group of affluent Jews. As I stood up to make my remarks one of the men in the front row pointed out to me that I was wearing my yarmulke. I assured him that I was aware that my head was covered. He asked me if I wore my yarmulke all the time. I noticed a certain discomfort in this very well meaning and sincere man. I explained to him that as an Orthodox Jew I always wear my Yarmulke. I then asked him if me wearing a yarmulka, makes him uncomfortable or self-conscious. He immediately told me that he was fine with it and apologized for the intrusion into my private affairs. My response to him still rings in my own ears. "It makes me a bit uncomfortable and self conscious, I said, --- and that is exactly why I wear it!" Self-consciousness means to be aware of oneself as an individual or of one’s own being, actions, or thoughts. It may be a bit uncomfortable but when we consider the impact of our words and actions on our friends, associates, family and G-d, a bit of discomfort helps keep us in line. G-d doesn’t want us to be scared just to be aware. With a bit of self-consciousness we can make a kidush Hashem with everything we do.

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