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

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht


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“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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(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Plural form of Mitzvah. Commandments of G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
"The Name." Out of respect, we do not explicitly mention G-d's name, unless in the course of prayer. Instead, "Hashem" is substituted.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.