The One Who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God – I am the Lord.Leviticus 22:33
The One Who brought you out: On this very condition.Rashi
This last verse of Chapter 22 is a not-so-subtle reminder of the nature of our relationship with God. God requires our adherence to the commandments not only because of God’s own awesomeness, but also because we owe God for our capacity to exercise our own free will and judgment. We are no longer slaves, thanks to God’s intervention.
However, reading this verse in the context of the prior verse – “you shall not profane my name, but sanctify it” – Rashi deduces a connection: God took us out of the land of Egypt on the very condition that we sanctify God’s name.
It bears mentioning here that the phrase kiddush ha-Shem (“sanctifying God’s name”) has a deeper meaning to the sages of our tradition: It means martyrdom. There is a principle in Jewish law that one is allowed to break almost any commandment in the Torah if doing so would prevent a person’s death. If someone asks you to eat a ham sandwich at gunpoint (weird), eat the sandwich. The exceptions are: You may not commit murder, commit sexual violence, or worship idols, even when threatened with death; you are expected to sacrifice your life instead.
Nevertheless, there have been times in our history when any public practice of Judaism was outlawed, on pain of execution. At these times certain people stood up to the authorities, practiced their faith in public, and were executed. Their acts of devotion to God and the traditions God gave us were considered kiddush ha-Shem, lifting up God’s holy name.
Rashi’s reflection on this is as follows: God did God’s part when rescuing us from slavery, degradation, and death in Egypt. Our part forever more is to live in a way that reflects the holiness of God, even to the rare (but historically too frequent) point of giving up our lives rather than degrading ourselves and God.
Question of the day: When you’ve made hard choices to live by your values, what have you had to give up in the process?