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Bible Encyclopedias
Sanctification of the Name

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

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Terms denoting the highest positive and negative standards of Jewish ethics, the one indicating that everything within man's power should be done to glorify the name of God before the world, the other that everything should be avoided which may reflect discredit upon the religion of Israel and thereby desecrate the name of God (see L. Lazarus, "Zur Charakteristik der Talmudischen Ethik," p. 40). The terms are derived from Leviticus 22:32: "Neither shall ye profane my holy name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel; I am the Lord which hallow you"—the verse called by Jellinek ("Predigten," 1862, 1:225 et seq.) "Israel's Bible in miniature." Referring in the text to the priests as the appointed guardians of the Sanctuary, the commandment, in its positive and in its negative forms, was applied at an early time to the whole people of Israel as the priest-people, whose very lives and history stand for the belief in the world's holy God. Sifra, Emor, reads: "I have brought you out of Egypt upon the condition that you sacrificeyour very lives should the honor of My name require it"; hence every Israelite is enjoined to surrender his life rather than by public transgression of the Law desecrate the name of God (Sanh. 74a, b; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, ).

Jewish Martyrdom.

Throughout Jewish history martyrdom in the cause of religion is called "sanctification of God's name." Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Daniel 3; Pes. 53b; Sanh. 93a; Soṭah 10b), the men who in Maccabean times were "for the Lord's sake killed all day long" (Psalms 44:23 [A. V. 22], 79:2), the generation of martyrs in Bar Kokba's time (Ber. 20b; Midr. Teh. to Psalms 16:4), are singled out as preeminent among those who glorified the name of God by their death, and as models for all the coming generations of Israel, the martyr-people. Only of the non-Jew, even when an observer of the Noachian laws common to all humanity, it is not expected that he sanctify the name of God by martyrdom (Sanh. 74b). Very dramatically R. Nathan describes the Jewish sentiment prevailing in a time of (Hadrianic?) persecution: "Why art thou brought out to be killed?"—"Because I have performed the rite of circumcision upon my son." "Why art thou to be stoned to death?"—"Because I have observed the Sabbath." "Why art thou led out to die by fire?"—"Because I have studied the Law." "Why art thou to be crucified?"—"Because I have observed the law of the unleavened bread on Pesaḥ." "Why art thou to be beaten with sticks?"—"Because I have swung the lulab on sukkot. All these things happen to me because I am the beloved one of my Father in heaven" (Mek., Yitro, 6; Midr. Teh. to Psalms 12:5). After martyrdom had begun to imperil the existence of the Jewish nation in Palestine the council of Lydda decreed that only with regard to the three fundamental laws, against idolatry, incest, and murder, should death be preferred to transgression (Sanh. 74a). But when the transgression is demanded as a public demonstration of apostasy or faithlessness the rule is that death should be preferred for the sake of the sanctification of God's name (see Maimonides, "Yad," Yesode ha-Torah, ). The 'Aḳedah read on New-Year was taken by the Jewish people as a pattern of martyrdom which Isaac was to offer to all his descendants (Giṭ. 57b; IV Macc. -; Lam. R. 1:16; Schreiner, "Die Jüngsten Urtheile über das Judenthum," 1902, pp. 179-180).

Works a Powerful Spell.

But the familiar term Ḳiddush ha-Shem assumed for the Jew in the course of time a still wider meaning. Every act of humanity and generosity done to the non-Jew appeals to the Jew as dictated by the impulse to hallow God's name before the Gentiles. Just as the prophet Ezekiel (20:31, 39:27) emphasizes the necessity to hallow God's name in the eyes of the nations, so did the Jew at all times pay especial regard to what the people around him would say (Genesis 34:30-31; Exodus 32:12; Psalms 115:2); and he felt all the more constrained to observe the law of integrity and purity in the sight of the non-Jewish world. Simeon b. Sheṭaḥ was held up for an example; when he bought an ass from the Arabs and his servants expressed delight at discovering a necklace of jewels around its neck, he immediately returned the necklace to the owner, who exclaimed: "Blessed be the God of the Jews, who renders His people so scrupulous in their dealing with other men!" (Yer. B. M. 2:8c; Deut. R. ). It is the Jew's deep feeling of responsibility for his religious faith that works such a powerful spell upon him and inspires him to manifest by noble deeds of righteousness and love his allegiance to the God of his fathers.

Ḥillul ha-Shem.

Still more powerful as a deterrent from evil acts is the expression "ḥillul ha-shem," instilling fear lest the name of Israel and of Israel's God be brought into contempt by the misconduct of the Jew. A theft committed against the non-Jew is more heinous than a theft against the Jew, because to the transgression of the Law is added the sin of desecrating the Name (Tosef., B. Ḳ. 10:15). "All sins may be atoned for by repentance, by means of the Day of Atonement, or through the chastening power of affliction, but acts which cause the desecration of the name of God will not be forgiven, for "Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord God of hosts" (Isaiah 22:14; Mek., Yitro, 7; Yoma 86a; Matthew 12:32 et al. has, for "the Holy Name," "the Holy Ghost"). The greater the man, the more he must guard against causing ḥillul ha-shem by the slightest deviation from the path of strictest rectitude and moderation (Yoma 84a, 86a; Pes. 49a). To this day the warning against ḥillul ha-shem tends to keep the commonest Jew from committing any act that might disgrace the Jewish community.

  • L. Lazarus, Zur Charakteristik der Talmudischen Ethik, pp. 40-48, Breslau, 1877;
  • M. Lazarus, Ethik des Judenthums, 1:196 et seq.;
  • J. Perles, Bousset's Religion des Judenthums, Kritisch Untersucht, pp. 68-71, Berlin, 1903;
  • Schreiner, Die Jüngsten Urtheile über das Judenthum, Berlin, 1902.
Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Sanctification of the Name'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​s/sanctification-of-the-name.html. 1901.
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