Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God’s name, specifically before a gentile all too often is not even about the gentile at all. We use it to hold ourselves to proper conduct, the gentile being a stand-in for our own conscience. We’ll tell our children to be on their best behavior in a mall to make a Kiddush Hashem when it is really good behavior that we want and not the Kiddush Hashem itself.
The Talmud Yerushalmi (Bava Metzi’ah 2:5) impresses upon us that performing Kiddush Hashem is in fact imperative outweighing even the Halakhah. Many of our greatest Sages went to extreme lengths in order to sanctify God’s name before a gentile.
Rabbi Shimon Ben Shetach orders his students to return a jewel to a gentile even though by Jewish Law they were entitled to keep it. Let us add that the gentile was apparently an idol worshiper and a thief. But no gentile is too lowly or corrupt for the power of Kiddush Hashem to take effect. How important it was for Rabbi Shimon Ben Shetach to hear a gentile exclaim the great words “Blessed is the Merciful the God of the Jews”!
Even when dealing with an enemy such as the Romans or when the gentile exonerated the Jew — where moral and ethical argument could be made not to return the object, still our Rabbis were not deterred from making a Kiddush Hashem.
The Rabbis even risked their own lives for Kiddush Hashem. In their minds, Kiddush Hashem must be impactful, persistent and even heroic.
May we hear more gentiles proclaim the greatness of our Master!
Michael Linetsky is the director of the Talmud Yerushalmi Institute If you would like to receive these postings your mailbox when they become available, please email firstname.lastname@example.org