Emor: Profane Sanctimony in the Synagogue?

“You shall not profane My holy name, that I may be sanctified in the midst of the Israelite people, I the Lord, who sanctify you.”  -- Leviticus 22-32.

 “You shall not profane My holy name” is highly reminiscent of the third of the “Ten Commandments,” which is usually translated “You shall not take My name in vain.”  And the latter is commonly understood as not swearing using G-d’s name and/or not even completely writing out G-d’s name, lest it be discarded or destroyed.

But whereas not swearing and not writing the Name are signs of respect, the crucial import of the commandment is not about the name, per se. It is about what the name represents.  This is revealed by the commandment’s stated purpose, “that I may be sanctified in the midst of the Israelite people.” 

How do we sanctify G-d’s name in the midst of the people?  The same way that we would show honor to parents, teachers, and others whose values we greatly esteem.  By speaking “in their name” to spread their teachings and, most especially, by acting according to those teachings in furtherance of their goals.   

The way to not profane G-d’s holy name “amidst the people” is to act, in a word, “G-dly” toward others.  

When we sing “N’kadesh et shemcha ba’olam” in synagogue, we literally claim that we will sanctify G-d’s name “in the world.”  But our synagogue “service” -- and that should be a verb, not a noun -- is only of the “lip” variety if we don’t then actually do that outside of the synagogue.  This means acting “in the midst of the people” in ways that bring honor and respect to the commandments.

We “G-dda” walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  Otherwise, rather than sanctifying, we’re just being sanctimonious.  And that would be, namely, a profanity.

Shabbat shalom!



There are currently no comments, be the first to post one.

Comment Form

Only registered users may post comments.

A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.
Jewish Proverb