[Avodah] Rav Shimon Schwab on Chillul Hashem
Prof. L. Levine
llevine at stevens.edu
Sun Jan 3 06:39:18 PST 2021
The following is from Rav Schwab on Chumash pages 191 to 193. Note his message to the embezzler!
Living in Caius America, the malchus shel chessed, only strengthens
the Jew's obligation to create a kiddush Hashem. The Rav taught that
every form of chillul Hashem decreases awareness of the Divine presence
in this world. If the perpetrator is supposedly an observant Jew or, worse,
a so-called Torah scholar, then the offense is that much greater.
He would ask: "How can a person who has cheated his neighbor or
defrauded the government have the audacity to stand in front of the
congregation and recite Kaddish, a prayer for sanctifying G-d's Name in
The Rav's greatest fear was of a chillul Hashem. On his checks, he
never used the title "Rabbi." He told me that he was always concerned
that if, G-d forbid, a check were to bounce, "Rabbi" would add to the
Many years ago, a shameful scandal erupted around a Jewish
businessman who was tried for embezzlement. Influential members of
the embezzler's community approached Rav Schwab with a plea that
he do what he could to save the man from prison. Rav Schwab became
extremely agitated. He pointed out that the man's behavior, widely
publicized in the media through the printed word and the television
screen, had caused a tremendous chillul Hashem; the man had become
.a virtual rodef of Kial Yisrael, because Jews everywhere would suffer
aniti-Semitism due to his actions. He forthrightly told the visitors that the
embezzler deserved to sit in prison for a long time.
But he pleaded with them to give the embezzler a message: The m;111
should shave off his beard and take off his yarmulke when appearing i11
court or on television, because by wearing these religious accoutremenh,
he would be creating a new chilluf Hashem every day and would be a
living disgrace for the Jewish People.
In Selected Writings, Rav Schwab wrote extensively on the topic of
chilul Hashem: "If one steals from a non-Jew, swears falsely and dies, his death does not
atone for his sin because of chillul Hashem (Tosefta Bava Kamma 10). Let us repeat.
The profaners and desecrators give us all a rotten name, aiding and abetting our
many adversaries and antagonizing our few friends. Therefore, no white-washing,
no condoning, no apologizing on behalf of the desecrators. Let us make it clear that
anyone who besmirches the sacred Name ceases to be our friend. He has unwittingly
defected from our ranks and has joined our antagonists, to make us suffer in his wake.
And -noblesse oblige- the more prominent a man in Orthodox Jewish circles, the more
obligated he must feel to observe the most painstaking scrupulousness in
his dealings with the outside world."
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