How Can The Average Orthodox Jew Achieve Kiddush HaShem and Reduce Chillul Hashem?

What can the average mitzvah observer do to achieve Kiddush HaShem, sanctification of G_d’s Name?

In other words: What can Orthodox Jews who are not millionaires and not Rabbis do to improve the reputation of Judaism and Jews?

What can average Orthodox Jews do to reduce or avoid Chillul HaShem?

65 comments on “How Can The Average Orthodox Jew Achieve Kiddush HaShem and Reduce Chillul Hashem?

  1. The non-Jew is going to care more about his personal dealings with Jews than about the sentencing of some individual reported by the newspaper. I’ve heard more unpleasant comments from non-Jews regarding the Jews they come into contact with regularly, such as their landlords or their supervisors at work or their dentists or the judge who ruled on their divorce case or their children’s school teachers and administrators, or the guy at the used auto dealer’s. If their apartments are freezing (because the cheap Jewish landlord gives no heat) or their kids are failing in school (because the crummy Jewish teacher doesn’t give the kid enough attention) or their car broke down after only 500 miles (because the slimy Jewish used car dealer sold them a lemon) or their ex-spouse gets too much alimony (because of that softie Jewish judge who believed all of her lies) or their teeth need to be pulled out and replaced with dentures (because of that stupid Jewish dentist who bungled the root canal) then you’re going to get someone who hates Jews.

  2. See the comments on Hirhurim. The 17 years and the restitution strike me as horrific. I think that a comparison with Enron and other similar cases of financial fraud would have resulted in a far shorter sentence.

  3. I think that the reccently rendered sentencing opinion in the Rubashkin case should be required reading on this issue. . Like it or not, a person’s chesed cannot be seen as a means of absolving a person from conduct which is viewed as against the American civil or criminal justice system.

  4. Rabbi Nosson Scherman, General Editor of ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications:

    It is important for parents and teachers [mechanchim] and every one of us to make it clear that someone who cheats and steals or hurts other people can not be called a pious Jew [frummer Yid] any more than someone who keeps countless stringencies [chumrot] but east on Yom Kippur.
    I quote Rabbi Mordechai Katz, the late Rosh Yeshivah of Telshe.

    SOURCE: Yated Neeman 2009/11/20 page 50

  5. I recently heard a kosher bakery employee say she wants to quit her job because of Jews who “fight over the last challah.”

  6. Rabbi Shmuel Dishon (speaking at a Hakhel lecture):

    The greatest Chillul HaShem in the world today is that we are still in exile.

    SOURCE: 5768 Av 5 Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin 2008/08/06

  7. When ordering something in a store or at a takeout counter, entering and exiting the bus, etc., give the person who is serving you your full attention. Turn the cell phone off and put it away. Say things such as “may I please have”, “thank you”, “you’re welcome” and “have a nice day.” Do not use phrases such as “I want”, “give me”, “let me have” or “let me get.”

    If your children commit any of the foregoing breaches of derech eretz/etiquette, have them rephrase their request appropriately.

  8. Rabbi Shimon Schwab (born in Germany in 1908, died in USA in 1993) once noted, with great consternation, the JEW entry in his edition of Webster’s Dictionary included in its definition terms such as: cheater, hard bargainer, and the like.

    Sadly, the term JEW has become synonymous with dishonesty and guile.

    In fact, the word JEW is also used as a verb: “Jew him down” means to persistently bargain or haggle.

    Rabbi Schwab remarked that the redemption can not come until this definition is taken out of the dictionary and phased out of the vernacular.

    When the term JEW becomes synonymous with pristine honesty, with stellar character, with courteous manners and amiability, we will know we are ready for the redemption.

    This is from an article by Rabbi Eli Mansour, Community Magazine, January 2009, page 18.

  9. Neil, “being an example” is the outward manifestation of getting one’s internal house in order.

  10. “The revival of Mussar has to expand on a level that every Jew can relate to. Maybe we’re ready now for real introspection.”-this s good start.

    It’s not just mussar, though. It’s an understanding that we, as Knesses Yisrael have an obligation to be a stellar example to other Jews and the nation of the world. This is a Torah obligation. No matter if you live in a “Jewish community” or “out-of-town” our obligation is the same.

  11. Rachel R’s point is well taken. RHS once mentioned that he knew a businessman who had learned in a certain yeshivah but who admitted that he was less than forthright in his business dealings with anyone who he dealt with-regardless of their religion. RHS related that he asked this person “didn’t you ever hear of Lo Sigzol, Gzelah or the Aseres HaDibros?!” The response was that he never learned these halachos. RHS commented that if one never learns these halachos, one thinks that everything is permitted, when, in fact, one must know CM in its most practical sense. When your entire knowledge base of CM is restricted to a few blatt Gemara in yeshiva or Daf Yomi without an in depth study of halacha, then pictures of ritually observant people of great stature doing the “perp walk” in their full ritual regalia will unfortunately continue. Perhaps, we need as much emphasis on this area of halacha as Orach Chaim, and Yoreh Deah.

  12. Dear Rachel R (message 47),

    I applaud your courage and intelligence.
    You seem to be a true Eshet Chayil.
    An Yisrael needs more people lile you!


  13. The situation is tough. We have a Wild West type of disorder in which true authority has largely evaporated. Communities have far less control over their members than in the past. Anyone who wants to can move or reaffiliate. We can’t assume anymore that all community leaders are themselves beyond reproach.

    It’s not a cop-out to suggest that we all need to pray fervently for Divine guidance.

    Rachel’s idea about the curriculum is also sound, if the adminstrators and teachers who implement it (and similar additions) can be the best possible role models.

    The revival of Mussar has to expand on a level that every Jew can relate to. Maybe we’re ready now for real introspection.

  14. Bob, true enough. we need community action and effort on a wide scale. what are some ideas which you see?

  15. If the problem is caused by certain Jews giving only lip service to the Torah and to our true spiritual leaders, much more than a public message will be needed.

  16. Twenty years ago I lived in Brooklyn and got a job with a company which will remain nameless. It turned out that the owner was not only breaking laws – Federal ones, at that – he was expecting me to do the same. To his vast surprise, I quit.

    This person was known as a frum Jew – learning, giving tzedakah, etc., and I was genuinely puzzled. I asked him if he had ever learned Choshen Mishpat. He replied that no one learns that except people who want to be poskim. It just isn’t bothered with.

    Perhaps Choshen Mishpat ought to be made compulsory starting at the same time Gemara is, and then people might take the halachas of business seriously.

    As they say in Washington Heights, “Glatt kosher, glatt yosher.”

  17. There are some actual communities in NYC, but you can be living nearby or right there and not be part of a community. What is lacking, as in most places, is an “umbrella” kehilla structure. This was once attempted in NYC in the late 1800’s, but disintegrated rapidly because of factionalism, organized opposition to proper kashruth supervision, etc. This is all a symptom of our current exile, wherever we are, and is something to mourn about during these 9 days.

  18. Bob Miller’s comment about community is interesting. About 25 years ago, I knew an Orthodox Jew who left New York City because his Rabbi told him that there is no community in NYC.

  19. When problems occur within our own community, i think we need to do whatever we can to try to address them, not just assume that they cannot be addressed.

  20. by the way, in this case, white-collar crime is about the easiest to detect…since apparently it is being shown clearly in multiple headlines. (I am not trying to be flippant here or anything.)

  21. Bob,

    if there is any sort of multiple occurrence in the Orthodox community of this sort of crime, then it does not matter at all how hard or easy they may be to detetct. It is up to us to ask ourselves why this is happening to us in our community, what is causing it, and what steps we need to take when possible to begin the process of improving our community morals, and making sure that such things do not occur.

  22. Steve (#37),

    White collar crime (your example from today’s news) is a lot harder for a neighbor to detect, isn’t it?

  23. also, you don’t exactly need to know about the crime itself to do something. If you knew that orthodx kids were chas v’shalom were running around doing littering, vandalism, or public disturbance, and some sort of community action was needed, then obviously the community would find some way to exert some sort of moral or philosophical leadership to help to address the issue.

  24. Much of what we call “community” is really individuals and families living in the same area, pursuing their own good or bad dreams. True community, the kind where we really know each other and take care of each other, is not as common as it should be.

  25. all Jews are responsible for each other, and for their state of being as a community, isn’t that true?

  26. Steve,

    How exactly do we who are not involved in this type of crime prevent it from happening? It’s not as if the perpetrators let us know about it.

  27. How about trying to prevent occurrences like this one?

    “Mayors of Hoboken, Secaucus, Several Rabbis Arrested”, July 23

    “Approximately 30 arrests have occurred this morning in a two-track federal investigation of public corruption and a high- volume, international money-laundering conspiracy,” Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra, said in a statement.”

  28. Someone suggested giving up a seat for someone who is elderly, pregnant, etc. Great idea. They also suggested getting other healthy men to give up their seats. The problem is, there are many disabilities that are not immediately apparent. If you try to get others to give up their seats, you risk embarrassing someone publicly. If someone looks healthy but they use handicapped parking (with the sticker, of course) or they don’t get up on the bus, they may not be as healthy as they look. Consider giving them the benefit of the doubt.


    It was approximately 1985, and in the summertime, on a Saturday night, that I saw her. We were in Manhattan’s Upper West Side neighborhood. She looked very lost. People of various races and ages passed her by, indifferent to her plight. I, as a native of New York City, wanted to help her.

    Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath, had just finished, and I had not yet returned to the apartment of my host. She looked so lost, that I just had to offer my assistance. She told me her story. She was a black woman from South Africa, visiting New York City, and the only clue that she possessed as to her required destination was on a piece of paper that
    she showed me. She was never in New York City before and probably was never outside South Africa before either.

    I did my best to figure out what her paper meant, and listened to her problem at length. Finally, I figured out where she had to go and helped her find a car service. But I did not want to leave a young lady alone on the dark streets of post-Shabbat Manhattan, so I waited with her on the street until her car arrived.

    When her car was already in sight, she said to me: You must be a Jew.

    Perplexed, I took note of the facts that I did not have a beard, had not used Hebrew or Yiddish words in my conversation, was not wearing Jewish clothes, and certainly had not made any mention of my Jewishness.

    Curiously, I asked her: How did you know that I am a Jew?

    Her response to my question has never stopped echoing in my ears: Because you were so kind to me.

  30. Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona, Shaarei Teshuvah, Shaar 1, Paragraph 47:

    When a man strives to uphold the truth and supports it, is awakened by its words and causes its light to shine before the eyes of his people, strengthens men of truth and honors them, and lowers false factions to the dust, these are the ways of Kiddush HaShem…

    MICROBIOGRAPHY: Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona died in Toledo, Spain, in 1263 CE.

    From this, it seems to me that all of these would be Kiddush HaShem, or close to it:

    {1} supporting yeshivot, from kindergarder to kollel and helping individual Torah scholars

    {2} honoring Torah scholars and pious Jews, and refusing to speak Lashon HaRa about them, and refusing to listen to HaRa about them

    {3} all aspects of kiruv rechokim

    {4} combatting Xtian missionaries who target Jews [like Jews for J____], cults [like Scientology] and false Judaisms [like Reform, Conservative, Reconstrucionist, Meshichists, Elokists, and Neturei Karta]

  31. It can’t be said enough, lulei demistafina, how important it is to say hello to people and to thank them. Recently, a major news magazine discussed grocery store cashiers who were appalled at the behavior of customers. The biggest offense was talking on the cell phone while checking out. Go to your local store and I’m sure you’ll see plenty of your “nicest” neighbors doing this. But the message to the cashier is, “You aren’t a real person to me.” Obviously most people don’t intend it that way, but that’s how it’s perceived, in their own words.

    I’m proud to say that I almost never see a person with a Yarmulka neglect to thank the bus driver after a trip to or from the City from our suburb. The majority of the others skip this simple courtesy.

    Striving to be the most ethical person at the office is another important step, especially when you are in business, and most especially when you are in finance dealing with OPM (other people’s money).

    A final thought that occurred to me over the weekend is to pull over when you see someone stuck on the highway. If it’s night and/or you’re alone, it might not be a good idea. But especially in the summer when people travel alot and there are more breakdowns, perhaps all someone needs is to borrow a cell phone or help changing a flat.

    Great story: I once got a flat driving a car of public school students to a Shabbaton. Three people stopped to help – all frum. The kids were beyond impressed. One said, “Are all Orthodox Jews so nice to each other?”


  32. 11) There are other things which also count as a desecration of God’s Name if a man very knowledgeable in Torah and known as being pious does them; things which ordinary people do. Even though these things are not sins, they still count as a desecration of God’s Name.

    Such things include taking possession of an article and not paying for it immediately, even though one may have sufficient funds, and one will be messing the sellers around.

    Being excessively merry, or eating and drinking a lot amongst ignoramuses also fall into this category, as does speaking to others in an unreposed manner and without a pleasant facial expression, but in a quarrelous and angry manner.

    Similar things also count. Every great sage has to judge himself, according to his greatness, how to be particular on himself and to act beyond the letter of the law.

    Similarly, if a wise person is particular to receive people in a reposed manner, and involves himself and receives them with a pleasant expression on his face, and does not hide from them, then even those people who [had previously] mocked him will now respect and honour him, and will trust him.

    He should, however, not partake of too many meals with ignoramuses, and should always be seen to be busying himself with Torah, and wrapped in his tsitsit and wearing his tephillin, and always acting beyond the letter of the law, which involves not being too withdrawn or bewildered.

    If he acts in this way, then everyone will adore and love him, and follow his example. This is a sanctification of God’s Name, and concerning this it is written, “…and said to me, `You are My servant, Israel, amongst whom I will be glorified”.

  33. Hilchot Yesodai HaTorah, chapter 5, paragraph 11 says a Jew must speak to people gently and not with anger, and if not, it is Chillul HaShem.

  34. Aruch HaShulchan on Orach Chayim, Siman 124, Sif 12, teaches that talking in shul [synagogue] is a Chillul HaShem.

    The Aruch HaShulchan was known for his lenient Halachic rulings.

  35. I want to an English translation of Rambam’s Hilchot Yesodai HaTorah, chapter 5, paragraph 11 (last paragraph of that chapter) posted to this discussion thread.

  36. Gosh, Steve. I am sure everyone who has those volumes handy has now stopped reading this thread. But the rest of us?

  37. The Rambam in IIRc, the fifth chapter of Hilcos Yesodei HaTorah, based upon statements in the Talmud in Yoma and elsewhere, defines Kiddush HaShem and Chillul HaShem rather clearly and objectively.

  38. Hi Bob,

    Yes, the standard did used to be 15%, but now, that’s generally the minimum. Here’s an interesting article from the WSJ about the phenomenon of tip-inflation.

    For better or for worse, whether we think that it is silly/outrageous or not (I’m not suggesting that you think that), if we’re out of step with current tip standards/expectations we’ll be looked upon as cheap -both as individuals and as Jews. (I used to wait tables in various establishments and believe me, all waitstaff feel that 15% is the minimum , get very miffed at any less than that, and don’t feel gratified or appreciated at less than 18%. Even worse (for customers) than that is that waiters (wrongly or rightly) look at the total including tax for estimating percentages.

    Another important thing to realize: if your tab is less than $10 in a busy restaurant where people generally spend much more that that, and you take up a table for more than around 30 minutes, you really must leave a tip that is at least 20% more than the bill but with $2 being the baseline minimum (even if you only spent $5)

  39. Yaakov, the standard tip used to be 15% for most everything tippable. When did it increase?

  40. The most important thing is to always remember that our Gentile neighbors and not-yet-Shomer-Shabbat Jews notice all our actions, even though we tend to not notice them.

  41. Don’t cut in line or push past people.

    Treat waitstaff, clerks and even management in a friendly, considerate, respectful manner -even when you feel their service isn’t up to par. And leave at least an 18 percent tip (at least in major cities.) Don’t be the proverbial petty, demanding, tight-fisted Jewish customer.

    Don’t let older people, really heavy people, or frail looking people stand on the subway -offer your seat up promptly, and even ask healthy young men to give up their seats when you’re already standing.

    Help women carry their baby carriages up or down the stairs in the subway.

    Of course, the prime reason to do these things isn’t to be a kiddush Hashem -it is to just be a good person who does good things for people and treats people nicely. Being a kiddush Hashem is just a bonus.

  42. Orthodox Jews could avoid Chillul HaShem and even achieve Kiddush HaShem by obeying the secular laws. This is called Dina DeMalchuta Dina in Halachah.

    When Jews obey all local laws, all state laws, and all federal laws, they automatically reduce Chillul HaShem, especially the major Dina Chillul HaShem stories that appear in newspapers, magazines and television.

    Every time I see a Chillul HaShem reported in a newspaper, I think:

    This could have been avoided if Jews would simply obey Dina DeMalchuta Dina, meaning that secular laws must be obeyed also.

    * People notice when Jews fail to obey garbage recyling laws.

    * People notice when Jews fail to obey fire code laws by violating building occupancy limits.

    * People notice when Jews fail to obey real estate laws by discriminating against minorities when selling houses or renting apartments.

    * People notice when Jews fail to obey licensing laws that require certain legal services to be perfomed by lawyers only, not by unlicensed non-lawyers.

    * People notice when Jews fail to obey the law by littering streets or even crossing the streets without the benefit of a traffic signal.

    And people notice when Orthodox Jews smoke cigarettes. This might not always be a Chillul HaShem, but it certainly is never Kiddush HaShem.

  43. Someone can be dressed in de rigueur Yeshivishe garb (immaculately brushed black Borsalino hat, dark lint-free jacket, white starched tucked in shirt, dark knife-pleat trousers, and shined shoes) and be a greater chillul H-shem due to his attitude, speech, conduct and personal mannerisms than a shlumpy bachur with a misshapen hat, no jacket, a stained, wrinkled, untucked shirt, crumpled trousers, and dust encrusted shoes.

    When there is no desire to honor G-d in thought speech and deed the impecable de rigueur “get up” is nothing more than a Purim costume donned daily to fool himself and others. Someone is not a Kiddush H-shem, holier, or frummer just because they chose to wear a socially mandated costume.

    Clothing is no quick-fix substitute for the genuine avodah of honoring H-shem in thought speech and deed.

    When will people stop confusing the map for the territory?!

  44. Once I heard Rabbi Berel Wein mention that when he worked in Kashurs as the OU he had a sign on his desk that said, “What would Hashem what you to do?”

    I also saw in a catering kitchen the following sign:

  45. Bob,

    I don’t want to get into a discussion about appropriate dress, but I have seen many Bnei Yeshiva with white shirts stained and untucked or unbuttoned or otherwise looking “shlompy” who are far from a Kiddush HaShem.

    You may be conforming to a Yeshiva “Dress Code” and still not be dressed appropriately.

    (BTW – the “Dress Code” in my Yeshiva was socks, long pants, and a shirt with a collar – is that the type of dress code that you were referring to?)

  46. Steg,

    > Always be dressed smartly in a way the befits a Ben Torah.

    > R’ Sedley:

    > How do you define that?

    What I meant was always try to look neat and tidy and well kept.

    In my opinion there is no specific type of clothing required for a Ben Torah, and “dressed appropriately” depends on where you live.
    (for example, sandals and an untucked shirt is quite acceptable where I live, although is not the norm in some other places).

    However torn or stained clothing, wild uncombed hair, etc is (almost) never appropriate in public (unless you are in mourning Rachmana Latzlan).

    A good rule of thumb is that when you get dressed in the morning, stop and think whether your mother would approve of how you are dressed :)

  47. If we are what we claim to be, our actions should automatically show that to others. If others see problems with our external selves, it’s time to work on our internal selves.

  48. Here are some suggestions that we can all do:

    – Always greet people with a warm smile and a “Good morning”, especially if they are not religious (or not Jewish).

    – On Shabbat make a point of being extra friendly, especially to people who are Mechalel Shabbat.
    A warm “Shabbat Shalom” can have a bigger influence on someone then the best mussar shmooze.

    – Be honest in everything you do. For example, never pay a child’s fare on a bus for a child who is only a few months over the required age.
    (Besides anything else, that teaches your kids that it is OK to lie and steal for small amounts)

    – Treat your employees, employers, or customers with the utmost honesty.

    – Always be dressed smartly in a way the befits a Ben Torah.

    – Always give Tzdaka with a smile. If someone is collecting at your door, make sure that you offer them a cold drink and a warm smile.

    – Don’t try to justify the unjustifiable. If someone who is identified as a religious Jew commits a Chilul HaShem, don’t feel obligated to stick up for them (although there is no license to bad-mouth them either).

  49. Smile and greet passers-by if you’re walking. You can even wave at people as you drive by. When you’re wearing a yarmy on your head you reinforce the idea that those Jewish people are friendly and approachable.

    I do this often in Johannesburg and feel that it’s a Kiddush Hashem. Perhaps it’s not the done thing in the big city, and certainly it requires a bit of confidence, but you don’t need to start a conversation with a stranger. Just an acknowledgement and a howd’youdo.

    Try it. :-)

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