Kiddush Hashem

Kiddush Hashem

Vayikra 22

Interactive Learning Module

Courage of a Mother / Gustave Doré

1. Introduction

  • לגרסה של מודול זה בעברית, לחצו כאן.‏
  • The concept of sanctifying Hashem's name ("קידוש השם‏") is considered by many to be one of the central precepts of Judaism. The oft-cited source for the obligation is Vayikra 22:32, where Hashem states, "וְלֹא תְחַלְּלוּ אֶת שֵׁם קׇדְשִׁי וְנִקְדַּשְׁתִּי בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל".
  • This module will explore how various commentators and enumerators of the mitzvot understand this mitzvah and the extent to which their understandings match the simple sense of the verses.
  • An in depth analysis of the issue can be found at Sanctifying Hashem's Name. As you use this module, you are invited to compare your own analysis with the analysis found there.

2. The Verse in Context

  • Let's begin in the Mikraot Gedolot on Vayikra 22 in order to see the verse "וְנִקְדַּשְׁתִּי בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל" in context.
  • Scan the chapter. What are the topics covered in the chapter as a whole? What is the subject of the immediately preceding verses (26-30)?
  • At whom are the laws of the chapter primarily aimed? Does this imply that our verse, too, is being addressed only to this group?
  • Where else in the chapter does the concept of the sanctification or desecration of Hashem's name appear?
  • Based on your perusal of the unit, how would you explain our verse? What is it trying to express?

3. Consequence of Observance

  • Let's return to verse 32 and look at Ibn Ezra's understanding of the verse.
  • According to him, at whom is verse 32 directed? To what is it connected?
  • Are the words "וְנִקְדַּשְׁתִּי בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל" a command or a consequence?
  • What is the verse saying about Hashem's sanctification? How is Hashem to be glorified?
  • How does the passive form of the verb "וְנִקְדַּשְׁתִּי" support Ibn Ezra's reading?

4. Variation of a Refrain

  • According to Ibn Ezra, our verse is not a command at all, but rather simply states that proper priestly observance of the cultic laws just mentioned will result in Hashem's sanctification.
  • As such, the phrase is similar to others in the chapter (see verses 2, 9, 15, and 16) which also serve to remind the priests to be careful in their service so as not to profane Hashem and thereby to promote His sanctity.
  • Let's see these inside. Access the Tanakh Lab on our chapter by clicking here. [The lab can also usually be accessed by clicking on the microscope icon above the verse.]

5. Tanakh Lab

  • In verse 2, click on the words "יְחַלְּלוּ" and "מַקְדִּשִׁים" so that all appearances of words with these roots will now be highlighted. Where else in the chapter is the sanctification or desecration of Hashem's name discussed?
  • Note how variations of the phrases "וְלֹא יְחַלְּלוּ אֶת שֵׁם קׇדְשִׁי" and "אֲנִי ה' מְקַדְּשָׁם" repeat. [Highlight the phrases in verses 2 and 9 and choose "highlight instances" from the drop-down menu so that all appearances will be colored.]
  • Do you think the usage of these phrases throughout the chapter supports Ibn Ezra's reading, or is our verse significantly different?

6. Upright Behavior and Observance

  • Let's now return to the Mikraot Gedolot to look at a second reading of our verses.
  • R. D"Z Hoffmann speaks about our issue in his comments to verse 31. We'll look at just the first part of his commentary, until the words, " שהכל יהיו כפופים לו ומשועבדים לעבודתו".
  • According to him, at whom is our verse aimed? Is it a command or consequence? What is it requiring of the nation?
  • Compare R. D"Z Hoffmann to Rambam in in his halakhic code of Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Yesodei Torah 5:11. In what ways do the two works agree? According to Rambam, what types of behavior sanctify Hashem?

7. Broad Context

  • R. D"Z Hoffmann and Rambam suggest that our verse is commanding the nation to observe Hashem's mitzvot and behave in a manner that will cause others to praise and sanctify Hashem.
  • How might they explain the fact that the word "וְנִקְדַּשְׁתִּי" is not written in the imperative form? Can you think of other verses which form the source for a mitzvah which are not formulated as a command?
  • One might question this reading from the immediate context of cultic law which appears to have nothing to do with the nation's behavior and observance of Torah.
  • How does R. D"Z Hoffmann respond? [Return to the Mikraot Gedolot by pressing here]. According to him, for which unit do verses 31-33 serve as a summation?
  • See the opening of the unit in Chapter 19. What do the words "קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ" suggest is the unifying subject of this entire unit? What is the goal of all the commands therein?

8. Concordance Check

  • R. D"Z Hoffmann suggests that all of Chapters 19-22 revolve around the themes of sanctification and desecration.
  • Let's use the concordance to check his assertion. Access the concordance here and type "קדש" into the input box, choosing the verb form from the drop-down menu. Out of 75 appearances of this root in all of Torah, how many are in these four chapters?
  • Now, type in "חלל", again choosing the verb form from the drop-down menu. How many of the 40 appearances of the root in Torah are in our unit?
  • [For a visual demonstrating how Sefer Vayikra compares to other books of Tanakh in its usage of these roots, click on the Grapic Concordance.]

9. Martrydom

  • Let's now turn to what is perhaps the most well-known understanding of our verse, that sanctification of God's name is connected to the obligation to sacrifice one's life for Hashem.
  • Return to the Mikraot Gedolot on Vayikra 22:32 and press the button "Show Additional Commentaries" so that the Sifra, the Midrash Halakha on our verses, will now appear. What does it say our verse is commanding? Under what circumstances?
  • The Rambam in Hilkhot Yesodei Torah 5:1-2 goes further to include also the need to martyr one's self in private if asked to transgress one of the three cardinal sins of idolatry, illicit sexual behavior or murder.
  • What difficulties does this approach face from our chapter? [To return to the chapter, press here.]

10. Alternative Sources?

  • As our chapter appears to be aimed at the priests, deals with cultic law, and contains no hint to self-sacrifice, we must attempt to better understand the approach that our verse refers to martyrdom. What might be the factors that led to such an interpretation?
  • Is there an alternative source for the obligation of martyrdom which more explicitly mandates forfeiting one's life?
  • If you were looking for such a source, what verse might you have chosen?

11. Ahavat Hashem as Martyrdom

  • Sifre Devarim 6:5 points to Devarim 6:5, "וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת י"י אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכׇל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכׇל נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכׇל מְאֹדֶךָ" as a possible source for martyrdom.
  • Do you think this is the simple understanding of this verse? What else might the verse be obligating? [For discussion of alternative understandings of the mitzvah, see: Ahavat Hashem.]
  • What are the advantages of using this verse as a source for the obligation of martyrdom rather than the verse, "וְנִקְדַּשְׁתִּי בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל"? What are the disadvantages?
  • Bonus work: Access the מאגר מוני המצוות to compare how the various enumerators of the mitzvot define each of these mitzvot and whether they view each as an obligation at all.

12. A Talmudic Tale

  • Let's close by looking at one story of martyrdom in the Gemara, R. Akiva's being tortured to death by the Romans.
  • Access Bavli Berakhot 61b in the Shas Gadol.
  • As Rabbi Akiva is taken to be killed, he accepts his fate. What does he say to his students when explaining to them how he is able to do so?
  • What verse does he point to as the source for the obligation of martrydom?

13. Summary

  • We have explored three very different understandings of the verse "וְנִקְדַּשְׁתִּי בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל".
  • Ibn Ezra offers what is perhaps the simplest explanation, suggesting that the passive formulation of the phrase teaches that it is not a command at all. The phrase is related to the immediate context of priestly observance and declares that the result of proper priestly service will be the glorification of Hashem.
  • R. D"Z Hoffmann, in contrast, views our verse as a summation of the entire unit of "Holiness laws" beginning in Chapter 19. The nation as a whole is being commanded to sanctify Hashem's name through proper observance and behavior, as delineated throughout the unit.
  • Finally, the Sifra suggests that our verse serves as the source for the obligation of martyrdom. This explanation, though, is not agreed upon by all, and other sources adduce alternative verses for this obligation.
  • May we all merit to be able to sanctify Hashem's name through careful observance of Hashem's precepts and upright behavior in all areas of our lives.

14. Additional Reading