Nelly Shulman

The ultimate punishment

In the Torah reading for the second day of Pesach, there is a verse from Leviticus 22:32, “You shall not profane My holy name, that I may be sanctified in the midst of the Israelite people…”.

Commenting on these words, Rabbeinu Bachya writes, “Desecration of the Lord’s name is the most serious sin. We find that on occasion G’d ignored the sin of idolatry while not ignoring the sin of desecrating His name.”

He also brings to the commentary a citation from Yoma 86a, where the sages discuss the punishment for the one desecrating the name of God.

“But in the case of one who has caused the desecration of God’s name, his repentance has no power to suspend punishment, nor does Yom Kippur have the power to atone for his sin, nor does suffering alone have the power to absolve him. Rather, all these suspend punishment, and death absolves him.”

The current aggressive war of Russia against Ukraine is an ultimate desecration of every commandment, including the desecration of the Divine name. Therefore, both the perpetrators of this war and the bystanders will not be absolved through any of the actions they might take in the future. The human punishment will come in the form of the legal judgment and, as for the Divine punishment, it is spelled out in the Talmudic passage.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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