159/929 In Light of the Chilul Hashem of the Last Days. Devarim 6

Throughout history, the traditional last words of Jews who have been killed al kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God’s name, are the 6 words of the Shema found in chapter 6. The power of that statement takes on deeper meaning in light of Rashi’s elucidation of the phrase. For Rashi, this is not a declaration of faith as much as it is a prayer, a hope.

“God, who is our Lord (Eloheinu) now, and not the God of the nations, in the future will be one God, as it says ‘For then will I turn the nations language clear, to all call in the name of God’ and it says ‘On that day will God be one, and His name will be one.”

The Jew being killed because he is a Jew spends his last words, his last breath, expressing the hope for the day that no nation will lift sword against nation, because all nations will accept upon themselves the majesty of God. To hold onto this hope in the face of evil is to die sanctifying God’s name.

But, the Rambam points out, our first responsibility is not to die al kiddush Hashem, but to live that way. And that is precisely what the next verse directs us to do.

“And you shall love Hashem your God.” What does it mean to love God? The Talmud (Yoma 86a) gives an answer that needs to be read and reread, taught and re-taught. We dare not skip a single word.

“‘And your shall love Hashem your God’ — that the name of Heaven should become beloved because of you, that you should study, learn, and serve Torah scholars, and conduct your business pleasantly with people. What will people say about such a person? ‘Fortunate is his father who taught him Torah, fortunate is his rabbi who taught him Torah, woe to those who don’t learn Torah. This one who learned, see how pleasant are his paths, how proper are his actions.’ About him the verse says ‘And He said ‘You are my servant, Israel in whom I glory.’ BUT — he who studies, learns and serves Torah scholars but whose business dealings are not faithful and who doesn’t speak pleasantly with people, what do people say about him: ‘Woe to him who learned Torah, woe to his father, to his rabbi who taught him. This man who learned Torah, look how corrupt his actions are, how ugly his ways are.’ About him the verse says ‘As they say — this is God’s nation, who left his land'”

The rest, as they, is commentary. Please, my dear Orthodox community, if we want to stop desecrating God’s name, and start sanctifying it , we need to start internalizing these words.

About the Author
Avidan Freedman is one of the founders of Yanshoof (, an organization dedicated to stopping Israeli arms sales to human rights violators, and an educator at the Shalom Hartman Institute's high school and post-high school programs. He lives in Efrat with his wife Devorah and their 5 children.
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