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What constitutes a Chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d's Name)?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

“Chillul Hashem” (pronounced KHIH-lool hah-SHEM) means “Desecration of G-d’s Name.” Colloquially, it refers to personal acts/behaviors that give G-d, Judaism, Torah/Mitzvot or Jews a bad name and a bad reputation.

But in its legal sense, it refers to when a Jew is faced with the choice of a) committing one of the three cardinal sins (accepting another god or religion, murder or certain illicit sexual relations), or b) execution. If s/he chooses “a” instead of “b” that is a Chillul Hashsem.

Why is it a Chillul Hashem? Why should he die? Because belief in the Highest Power, respect of human life and sexual decency are the three core pillars of society, and a Jew giving in to these is essentially saying that the Truth is not really the truth after all. Thankfully, this form of Chillul Hashem doesn’t normally exist in Western society.

Very important: those three are the only Torah laws that a Jew must die for. If your life depended on it, you may eat non-Kosher, steal, violate the Shabbat or smack your best friend, because they’re not societal pillars like those Big Three.


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