This past week I was walking with someone to the Yudkowsky bar mitzvah and he was wearing a mask on his chin. I asked him why he was wearing a mask in the street; it was just us and we are both vaccinated. He told me that his guidance from Rabbi Gibber was that as much as it is obviously perfectly safe for him not to wear a mask, we still need to do so to avoid a Chillul Hashem. The rosh yeshivah shared that if the state has a masking policy, we must be prepared to wear a mask when in close contact with others on the street so that we avoid being looked at as not compliant with the rules of the governor. Obviously, I took out my mask and put it on.
This week’s parshah, Emor, discusses this concept of going the extra mile to make a Kiddush Hashem. Another example based on this principle is the school’s new policy regarding masking during outdoor recess. The school now permits students to play without a mask on school property but not in public places to avoid a Chillul Hashem. I was told that the rosh yeshivah wears his mask when leaving the yeshivah until he reaches his car.
I saw an article by Rabbi Label Lam that outlines the importance of the “optics” in what we do and to make a Kiddush Hashem. Enjoy!
“You shall observe My commandments and perform them; I am Hashem. 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 G-d unto you; I am Hashem.” (Vayikra 22:31–33)
This posuk defines our entire mission here on earth. We are meant to sanctify Hashem’s name! We Jews represent the Almighty, the Law and the Order in the universe! So powerful is the performance of Kiddush Hashem that the subject deserves to be punctuated and crowned with the concluding words, “I am Hashem.” Rashi explains the meaning of those words: “I am reliable to give a reward!” Guarantees don’t get greater than that! Nothing is lost from the investment of blood and sweat to make a Kiddush Hashem.
Perhaps this point can be anecdotally demonstrated by the following remarkable story told over by Rabbi David Ashear of a young man in Israel who was running late on his way to get to yeshivah. Unusually, he decided to take a cab. When the cab pulled up in front of the yeshivah the boy was in such a hurry that he ran out of the cab without paying the non-religious Israeli cab driver. The cab driver sat there in stunned disbelief as this fellow disappeared into an unrecognizable sea of black pants and white shirts. He waited and waited for the fellow to return, thinking that perhaps he went in to get the money and was coming out soon. Then he began to suspect that perhaps this “religious” kid really intended to rip him off. He began to harbor feelings of resentment. That was not getting him his money. After a while he decided to cut his losses and get back to business. So, deeply disappointedly, he speedily departed.
Meanwhile, back in the yeshivah the boy realized with horror his mistake. He ran out with the money in his hand only to witness the driver screeching away from the curb. He began to give chase by foot. When he thought he might be catching up at a red light, the light turned green and off he went again. This frustrating scene repeated itself multiple times. Finally, finally he caught up with the cab, now miles away from the yeshivah. The young man rapped desperately on the window and the cab driver looked skeptically at this heavily perspiring fellow anxiously trying to get his attention. Rolling down the window the cab driver experienced something entirely unexpected.
The young fellow handed him the money. The cabby was mystified. Out of breath, the yeshivah student apologized profusely for not paying him and that it was a mistake. The cab driver stared at him with wonderment. The yeshivah was already miles back. Again, the yeshivah student explained how he was trying for many blocks unsuccessfully to catch the driver until he finally reached him. The cab driver was overawed. Here was the boy he suspected of having intentionally not paid the fare and now he was equally astonished to discover how very wrong he was. He had exerted himself so much and run so far just to do the right thing. That’s how the encounter ended.
Many years later he met the cab driver at a lecture, and the driver remarked, “Your act so impressed me that I decided to explore Torah to discover what could make a person so extra good. I have been studying Torah ever since.” This is the fruit of that one incredible act.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman