Parashat Emor Torah Reading: Leviticus 21:1-24:23
In this week's parashah, God tells the Jewish people, "You shall not profane My holy name, that I may be sanctified in the midst of the people of Israel." This verse is the source of a mitzvah/commandment called "kiddush hashem/the sanctification of God's name."
Rabbi Brad Artson, in his wonderful book, The Everyday Torah, explains:
Life presents us with a simple choice: how we live our lives can either heighten a sense of God in the world, or it can diminish it. There is no neutral, middle ground.
By treating our fellow human beings with generosity, we bear witness to God's generosity. Acts of greed and selfishness make that bounty harder to perceive.
By speaking out against oppression and bigotry, we affirm God as the righteous judge, the One passionate about justice. To remain silent in the face of such suffering is to eclipse God's justice.
In everything we do, we can help other people to know that there is a God; we can bring credit to the God of Israel and to God's Torah. As the great nineteenth-century rabbi Israel Salanter said, "Compassion is the foundation of belief. For a person who isn't compassionate, even the belief in God is a kind of idolatry."
I imagine that most of us who are blessed to be parents have experienced a twinge or two of embarrassment at something our progeny have said or done: our two-year-old might decide that climbing on a table is a great challenge . . . at a restaurant; our teenager might emerge from the bathroom with purple hair . . . just as we're leaving for the airport for a family vacation; our seven-year-old may have a meltdown at the supermarket when told that the tempting, neon-colored breakfast cereal will not be making an appearance in our shopping basket. (Disclaimor: my kids have done none of these things, but I'll spare them the embarrassment of telling you what they have done!)
What this week's Torah reading provides is the wonderous insight that our actions might embarrass or disappoint God. If our actions will sanctify God's name, then our actions can do the opposite as well. Not only has God created us with free will, with the capacity to discern right from wrong and the self-determination to decide which we will pursue . . . but God has also created us with the capacity to bring Kedushah/Holiness to the world through the great and small decisions we make every day.
Right now, with the simplest of decisions, we can make God proud. That is awesome!
Rabbi Amy Levin
has been Torat Yisrael's rabbi since the summer of 2004 and serves as President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.