The World Is Looking At You!
“Sanctify for Me every first born…” (13:2)
Shmuel’s wife, Rachel, had waited months to have a very serious operation. The day finally came. In the hospital, as she was being prepared for surgery, the nurse asked, “Of course you used the special lotion on your scalp before you came?” Rachel looked dumbfounded for a moment and said that she had not. The nurse said that it was important for it to have been applied to the scalp in advance of the surgery. Now, the surgery would have to be rescheduled. Rachel did not want to postpone the surgery any longer. Shmuel asked the nurse if there still be time to put it on his wife’s scalp if he could quickly get the lotion. The nurse looked at her watch and replied that if Rochel put it on in the next half an hour, the surgery could continue. Shmuel raced out of the hospital to a nearby pharmacy, but it was closed. The lights were on and Shmuel banged on the door. An employee came to the door and saw the urgency in Shmuel’s face. Shmuel explained the seriousness of the situation and said which lotion was required. The employee responded that the store had it in stock it, but the cash register was already closed, and he could not take Shmuel’s money. Shmuel promised to pay for it the next day. For some reason, the employee agreed. The next day, Shmuel came into the store to pay. When he told the cashier that he was paying for the lotion that he had taken the night before, the cashier screamed into the back room where yesterday’s employee was working. Apparently, the cashier had told the employee that he was crazy for letting the man take the lotion without paying for it. There was no way that the man was going to return to the store to pay. The employee felt that he would return. They had made a bet with each other as to whether Shmuel would return to the store to pay. Now the cashier screamed, “Had I known that the man you gave the lotion to was one of those people who wear the caps on their heads (Jews) then I would never have made the bet. Of course, he will return. Those people are honest”. Shmuel had made a kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of Hashem’s name. Clearly, other Jews also made a kiddush Hashem and that was why the cashier understood that a Jew would return to pay.
During the last plague, makas bechoros, Hashem killed all the first-born Egyptians and their animals, as well as all the firstborn non-Egyptians who were in Egypt at the time. Since the firstborn Jews were the only firstborn whose lives were spared, they became holy to Hashem forever. That is why we have the mitzvah of pidyon ha’ben, in which a parent must redeem his firstborn son from Hashem, by giving money to a kohen.
The Alter of Slobodka, Rav Simcha Zissel Ziv zt”l (Rabbi Frand on the Parsha), says that the Jewish firstborn were involved in a great kiddush Hashem. However, they did not do anything on their own. Their role was totally passive! We see from this that even passive participation in a kiddush Hashem is very great. Thereupon, Rav Simcha Zissel said, “If this is the reward for a person who has a passive role in a kiddush Hashem, how can we even begin to imagine the reward of a person that actively makes a kiddush Hashem?”
Rav Alter Henach Leibowitz zt”l quotes the Sforno (Devarim 23:21) who says that a Jew who borrows money with interest from a non-Jew must pay back, of course. If he only pays the principal and does not pay back the interest his action is considered “treachery” and he is causing a chilul Hashem, desecration of Hashem’s name. If he does pay back, he will be blessed. People look for rationalizations. Causing a chilul Hashem is so serious that Rabbi Yona of Gerona says, Yom Kippur and repentance do NOT atone for it. We must be so careful with our dealings with non-Jews and with the government to make sure that all our actions are honest.
Na’aman, the general of the King of Aram was a great warrior who was highly respected by his people. He developed tzarayas (a type of leprosy). Whichever cure he tried did not work. He heard about the Jewish prophet Elisha and asked him for help. Elisha told him what to do and Na’aman’s tzarayas was healed. King Na’aman came to Elisha with a large group of his followers. He told Elisha that he now knew that Hashem was the only true G-D. What a tremendous kiddush Hashem! Then he offered Elisha a thank you gift. Elisha refused to take it even though the Na’aman tried numerous times, pressing him to take it. (Melachim 2 5:14-15) The Ralbag explains that a navi taking a thank you gift would minimize the kiddush Hashem. Clearly, the remedy that Elisha advised clearly would not have worked without Hashem. Yet, on some level the kiddush Hashem would have been minimized had accepted a thank you gift . Even when doing a kiddush Hashem, we must be so careful not to diminish it in any way (Based on a discussion by Rabbi Alter H. Leibowitz zt”l).
The world expects a higher level of moral integrity and conduct from the Jews. Our actions are always under a microscope. The way we act, the way we talk to others, the way we conduct our business affairs
and the way we treat others, both Jewish and non-Jewish, make an impact.
Each one of us has this great opportunity to make a kiddush Hashem.