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Thought for the Day: Chillul HaShem in Private

In case you haven't heard, let me be the first to bring your day down just a bit: on June 5, 2012 (27 Sivan, in case you want commemorate the yahrtzeit), 100 or so yeshiva students were kicked off an AirTran plane because they did not follow the instructions of the flight crew to turn off cell phones and to sit down, both violations of Federal Air Regulations.  A terrible chillul HaShem no matter how you spin it.  My question: what, exactly was the chillul HaShem?

You may think that is a crazy question, the chillul HaShem is obvious, isn't it?  I respectfully submit that the chillul HaShem is not obvious at all.  The mishna in Avos (4:5) quotes R' Yochanan ben B'roka as making two startling statements about chillul HaShem:

  1. One who makes a chillul HaShem in private will be repaid in public.
  2. There is no difference whether it was on purpose or by accident.
Wait... what is a chillul HaShem in private?  The Rambam says that when one averts his eyes from seeing something inappropriate, he is m'kadesh sheim shamayim.  If so, a chillul HaShem must occur when one simply does not avert his eyes.  R' Yochanan ben B'roka's words are now more than startling, they are chilling.  From the viewpoint, being kicked off the plane was the payment in public for some private chillul HaShem.  And so my question: What was the Chillul HaShem?

I once told a colleague (a goy and a dogmatic atheist) that I expected more out of Jew in terms of being polite and what not.  He was furious with me!  "How dare you think that Jews should be held to a higher standard!  Do you think you are better than other people?!"

I do, indeed, dare think that Jews should be held to higher standard.  The Am haNivchar, the nation chosen by the Creator of the world to be His ambassador to the world.  Darn tooten I expect more.  My boss expects more out of me than he expects out of the janitor.  I am not "better" than than the janitor, but I certainly have more education and I am expected to act accordingly.  Jews may not be "better" than any one else, but we are more educated.  We stood at Har Sinai and received direct instruction on being human from our beloved Creator.  More is expected from us.

So, in my personal opinion, the chillul HaShem is any time that a Jew says things like, "they're teenager and, you know, teenagers will be teenagers".  No.  They are Jews.  More than that, they are yeshiva students.  Bad enough that the world say such disgraceful behavior.  Far, far worse is that anyone thought it was excusable.

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