Kenneth Cohen

Voting on Kiddush Hashem

We learn from the words, וחי בהם, that we shall live by the laws, that if we are in life and death situations, we are permitted to violate the law, and survive.

The idea is that we are to live by the law, and not die by the law. This is also the source for Pikuach Nefesh overriding Shabbat. Specifically, when one is ill, and needs urgent care on Shabbat, we do not hesitate even if we violate Shabbat laws.

It is interesting to note that all laws were originally included in this dictum of “living by the law.” The Talmud in Masechet Sanhedrin wrote that this changed after a vote was taken in the upper chambers of the house of Natza, in the city of Lod.

It was decided at that meeting that there would be three exceptions to the rule of “living by the law,” in cases of murder, idol worship, or immorality. If a non-Jew threatened a Jew with death, if he would not violate one of these laws, he must give his life, rather than transgress the law.

Many are not aware that this was decided upon by way of a vote. It proves the concept that when the earthly court decrees, the Heavenly court confirms.

Those holy rabbis in Lod felt that they must not permit a desecration of the Name of G-d in these circumstances. The Rambam explained that the rule applied to lesser transgressions, if ten people would be present.

It is our absolute duty, to sanctify the Name of G-d, and bring Hashem great honor. It is written, “You are My people Israel. Through you, I will be glorified.” We do this by living in a manner that will make Hashem proud of us. We must become, walking Kiddush Hashem’s.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at