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Do not desecrate My holy Name. I must be sanctified among Bnei Yisrael. I am Hashem [and] I am making you holy (Vayikra 22:32).
The gemara in Maseches Pesachim explains that a regular person cannot stand in the same place (in the Next World) as someone who gave up their life al kiddush Hashem.
We can understand this with some further explanation. If a person gives something to someone else, the act of giving and receiving remains dependent on the ability of both parties to be able to provide and accept. Hashem, however, has no such limitations. Therefore, when He gives, the act is limited only by the receiver’s ability to accept.
A person who gives up his life al Kiddush Hashem is nullifying his entire existence for Hashem. He then becomes a vessel that can receive without limit because he has completely given over his whole self to Hashem. Therefore, he becomes above all other creations and no one else can stand in his place. (Rav Pincus, Tiferes Shimshon on the Torah)
I read these words and feel the power contained within them. The allusions they conjure are awesome. I feel so puny. I try to leap onto the concepts but they are too high and exalted for me.
I think about Rachel. A princess, a pampered daughter whose hems of gorgeous silk swept the marble floors. She had a future of luxury awaiting her. Yet, she remained determined to marry a simple ignorant shepherd, simply because she saw in him potential. She knew he was destined for greatness.
I think of this girl, her bed a silken canopy strewn with expensive satins. Then, the morning after her wedding, she finds herself sleeping in a bed of straw strewn on the floor, and her new husband is off to learn the alef-beis with toddlers.
She is left alone. For years. People tried to talk some sense into her: “Leave your husband. You’re waiting for him for nothing!”
But she remained solid as steel. She wouldn’t crack; the loneliness didn’t cause her pain. She only wanted one thing — that her husband should continue learning another twelve years.
In those bleak days, she couldn’t foresee the time when the whole city would be filled with thousands of talmidei chachamim coming to pay tribute to her husband. She couldn’t imagine thousands of tzaddikim learning in her merit. In those days, all she saw was the rain dripping into her hut, and her dream of a husband learning Torah.
The story of Rachel affects me deeply. Is it possible that I too, in my small way, can mekadesh Hashem?
The third part of the halachos of kiddush Hashem states: Any mitzvah that a person does for no outside benefit — nobody is going to see it, nor will he receive honor for doing it — yet he does it anyway, for the sake of Hashem, such a person had fulfilled the mitzvah of kiddush Hashem. The Rambam adds that if a person also refrains from an aveirah just for the sake of Hashem, and not because he is scared of people’s reactions or because he fears punishment, he too has made a kiddush Hashem. (Like Yosef when he restrained himself from sinning with the wife of Potifar.) The Chovos HaLevavos adds one more point: this also applies to the mitvos of the heart. (ibid.)
On my day off, I had a long list of errands to take care of. But I took the time to daven Shacharis with kavanah. Nobody would have known if I davened or not. But I wanted to daven.
Suppose there’s a woman alone in the kitchen on Shabbos, and she needs to dry a spill. Right next to her is a roll of paper towel. She reaches out her hand to rip one off — and stops. Because it’s Shabbos. This woman has just fulfilled the mitzvah of Shabbos, and of kiddush Hashem.
How about the time you grabbed the dairy spoon to mix the chicken soup? The soup was still cold, and the spoon hadn’t been used for a while, so what was really wrong with it? But you put it down and went to look for the proper meat spoon. It wasn’t fear that made you do this. Rather, you wanted to be a yerei Shamayim.
You think you’re a simple woman who does simple things all day long. But these simple actions are done for one reason only — to sanctify Hashem. These actions go up to the heavens, and announce to Hashem how much you love Him. Until you reach heights at which no one is able to stand in your place.
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