וְנִקְדַּשְׁתִּי בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
I shall be sanctified amidst the B’nei Yisrael
History flies by at a dizzying pace. What was the norm at some points in history is extraordinary at others. We are now in a time where for all the distancing that’s happening, a spotlight has been shined on the Jewish community as a whole and we are as visible as ever. Aside from the regular standards we must hold ourselves to, every kippah, hair covering, or other sign of our Judaism represents the nation as a whole.
We must be careful that what we do and say reflect us, the Torah, and Hashem in a positive light. When we act in a way that brings others closer to Hashem by showing them how pleasant His ways are, we get one of the biggest mitzvot possible. When we act otherwise, and make people distance themselves from Hashem, or lead other Jews into believing something is ok which isn’t and they do it, we make a chillul Hashem.
In the introduction to Reb Elchonon Wasserman’s hy’d sefer, his son writes the story of his tragic murder by the Nazis yms’h. (He was told this over by one who managed to escape the event.) Reb Elchonon had actually been in the United States collecting funds for his Yeshiva in Europe when the winds of war started blowing and he was begged to remain. He said that he refused to abandon his students, and if Hashem decrees that they be destroyed, he will remain with them.
He was in middle of learning when they came to arrest him and some others. They were taken to be shot in a forest for the “crime” of being Jewish. Shortly before they were killed Reb Elchonon addressed the rest of the group. He spoke quietly and calmly, the way he always did, someone passing might’ve thought he was giving a regular class. “It seems that in heaven they view us as pure Tzaddikim,” Reb Elchonon began. “We were chosen to atone for the entire nation with our bodies, and we must return to Hashem (do teshuva) completely and immediately. (Sacrifices in the Bet HaMikdash must be without blemish.) The time is short, and Fort Nine (where they were to be killed) is near. We must be aware that the purer we are, the more our sacrifice will accomplish. If we are pure enough, we can save our brothers and sisters in America [by preventing German influence and command from spreading there] from this holocaust. Be extremely careful not to allow any thought that would invalidate our sacrifice come into your mind (an allusion to the way a Kohen who thought the wrong thing when bringing an animal sacrifice in the Bet HaMikdash would invalidate it.) We are now doing the biggest Mitzva possible. It is said that Hashem destroyed Yerushalayim in flames, and in flames He will rebuild it. The fires that will destroy our bodies will come around to re-establish Torah [following the destruction of the Torah centers in Europe].”
Their souls were taken to heaven, and as he predicted, the fires of Torah were lit across America and Eretz Yisrael re-establishing Torah to degrees never imagined possible.
When we keep Hashem and His glory at the forefront of our priorities we are capable of unimagineable things.