Last week’s stretch of the week was: Make an effort to speak politely to an office worker, store clerk, customer service person or the like this week!
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Externally Sanctifying the Name of HaShem
This week we continue to consider various aspects of the concept of Kiddush HaShem.
Our goal sanctifying Hashem's Name is to bring all people to the recognition of the Glory of HaShem. To achieve this end, we must refine our behaviors and our attitudes, and we must be conscious of details that we may sometimes think of as less significant. While we are aware that the physical and external are only a shadow compared to the spiritual, still the Torah does not discount the importance of outward appearance. Observing the external may be the vehicle for others to be drawn to delve into the internal.
The Torah elaborates greatly on the construction of the Mishkan, Tabernacle and the fashioning of its vessels using beautiful materials and artistic craftsmanship. The physical aspects are not ignored or given diminished importance, rather their splendor contributes to the honor of HaShem. We try to build beautiful shuls, use beautiful candlesticks and menorahs, set our tables elegantly for Shabbos, all of this showing how we honor HaShem and the Torah.
We live in an affluent time and have the opportunity to broadcast HaShem's honor to the world by means of our financial success. One of the reasons that Avraham our Forefather was successful in teaching about HaShem was his wealth. Even King Avimelech attributed Avraham's material success to HaShem, saying "G-d is with you in all that you do" (Beraishis 21:22). So too, our material success can have a powerful influence on others and we should be aware of this opportunity.
Of course, we must be careful that too much importance placed on the externals may not only crowd out the importance of the spiritual, it may arouse envy in others.
There are many practical applications of the concept of making the most of the opportunity to influence others by means of the externals. For example, it is important to keep the outside of one's house neat and clean, garbage taken out on time, lawn mowed and snow shoveled appropriately. The standards of the neighborhood dictate where laundry is hung outside and whether toys are left on the front lawn.
Personal physical appearance is equally important in terms of its ability to influence. Historically, kings of the Jewish people were tall and handsome. Our Sages teach that a Prophet needed to be wealthy, physically strong, and wise, because it is the Prophet's job to influence the nation, and with those characteristics, he will be able to appeal to many. The Talmud goes so far as to say that a Talmudic scholar with a stain on his garment deserves the death penalty! This is because if others see his disheveled appearance they will come to scorn him, his Torah learning, and ultimately HaShem Himself. Clearly this indicates the need for all of us to be concerned that we and our children are neat and clean and dressed appropriately.
(Reproduced from Living Kiddush HaShem by Rabbi Shraga Freedman, with permission of the author. For more resources, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
When we think about how we are influenced by externals consider the following examples: Many pundits agree that JFK won the 1960 televised presidential debate because Nixon appeared to look scruffy with his five o'clock shadow. A few years ago the National Women's Lacrosse team were chastised in the press because some of the team members wore flip flops to the White House. And doesn't a defense lawyer tell his client what to wear to court to appear less guilty?
I am in the middle of baking late at night for an upcoming simcha. I am wearing my baking clothes which can best be described as “extremely comfortable.” My sweatshirt has flour on one side and cocoa on the other. I see that I have run out of eggs, but it's too late to ask a neighbor. Given what we have learned about Kiddush HaShem, can I run to the market and buy some eggs without changing my clothes?
Is there a method to help a person balance one's personal desire for physical comfort or luxury with the desire to use one's wealth as a vehicle for Kiddush HaShem?
How do we balance the concept of showing others that HaShem has honored us with success with the risk of incurring their envy?
How do we balance the need to appear presentable yet not succumb to undue vanity?
Stretch of the Week:
If you buy something new to wear or for your home, think of how this item can be part of your overall goal of Kiddush HaShem.