Last year, my friend Leibe Leichter had a flight that was canceled. He didn’t receive a refund after a reasonable time, so he spoke to an airline representative and emailed her for a refund. No response. He then emailed a second representative, who issued him a free ticket. Later, he received an email from the first person he messaged, also granting him a free ticket. Leibe asked me, could he keep both tickets?
I told Leibe that Rabbi Shimon Schwab said, “There is so much bad press about Jews nowadays that we must seize any opportunity to create a Kiddush Hashem by showing the exemplary way that a Jew behaves.”
“The proper thing to do is to create a Kiddush Hashem,” I said. “You should write to the first representative that you’re an Orthodox Jew and follow the ways of the Torah. You don’t want to accept something you’re not entitled to, and therefore you’re informing her that you already received a free ticket regarding this complaint.” I told Leibe he might be giving up a free extra airline ticket, but he’s likely to get a free ticket to Gan Eden for this action. My friend followed my advice and received an email back from the airline, thanking him for his honesty.
The importance of creating a Kiddush Hashem while we’re in exile is conveyed in Parshas Vayechi. Yaakov gathered all his sons and told them he wanted to reveal what will happen at the end of days. Rashi quotes the Gemara as saying that Yaakov actually wanted to reveal the date that Moshiach will come. However, Hashem didn’t want Yaakov to reveal that date, so He made it elude him.
Rav Avraham Schorr explains that although Yaakov wasn’t able to reveal the exact time Moshiach will come, he did share with them the secret of surviving exile and meriting redemption. The Gemara relates that when Yaakov saw that Hashem didn’t want him to reveal the date Moshiach will come, he was concerned it might be because his children were not worthy of redemption. The Shevatim (Yaakov’s sons) sensed that Yaakov was doubting their full commitment to Hashem and Torah, so they called out in unison the pasuk of “Shema Yisrael,” indicating to Yaakov their father that “Hashem is our God, Hashem is one.” Upon hearing his children’s allegiance to Hashem, Yaakov responded with the words “Baruch Shem kevod malchuso l’olam va’ed, Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom forever and ever.”
When we recite the daily Shema, we also add the words “Baruch Shem...,” albeit silently. The Gemara says that this is because although Yaakov said it, it’s not part of the text of Shema that’s written in the Torah.
These two verses of Shema represent two levels of the revelation of Hashem in the world. Shema is the ultimate revelation that Hashem is sovereign over everything. Baruch Shem is the recognition of Hashem’s honor in our daily lives.
In my dvar Torah for Chanukah, I mentioned that the Zohar correlates the six words of Shema and those of Baruch Shem to each of the six wings of an angel. The Gemara relates that after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, angels had only four wings. The Sefas Emes says that the two middle wings, corresponding to the two middle words “kevod malchuso, the honor of Hashem,” were clipped to signify that in exile, Hashem’s place of honor in our lives is not expressed openly. On Yom Kippur, however, we recite Baruch Shem out loud since Hashem’s presence is clearly evident at that time.
Although Yaakov didn’t reveal the time Moshiach will come, he did reveal to us the formula to help bring Moshiach and restore recognition of the honor of Hashem’s majesty. We each need to focus on Baruch Shem—restoring His honor through the way we conduct ourselves in our daily lives.
We as observant Jews are always under the watchful eyes of people we encounter and need to act as proper ambassadors to convey the honor of Hashem. Our actions can serve as a tremendous Kiddush Hashem.
One additional avenue to reveal the honor of Hashem is through the learning and teaching of Hashem’s Torah. Indeed, Torah learning is the greatest way we can express and manifest the honor of Hashem.
Leibe Leichter and his wife Daniella are continuing their mission of restoring the honor of Hashem and bringing the end of this exile. Together with the Guelfguat, Strumeyer and Zimmerman families, they have accepted to be the honorees of my yeshiva, Yeshiva Ner Boruch—PTI, at our annual dinner this Sunday evening, January 8. It’s not easy to be honored! There is an element of discomfort, but they recognize that it’s not about their honor. Rather, they are facilitating the honor of Hashem and His Torah.
May Hashem bless them with a free ticket to Olam Haba. Please join us this Sunday to demonstrate the honor of Hashem’s Torah.
Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged, but contributions are always welcome.
Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected] For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com .