This week’s parasha starts with the laws of the כהן, and ends with the laws of יום טוב. In between there’s a paragraph:
There are 3 commandments here (שבעת ימים תחת אמו, אתו ואת בנו לא תשחטו ביום אחד and ביום ההוא יאכל). Then there’s an apparently more general statement of ולא תחללו את שם קדשי ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל. Ibn Ezra says that the פשט is that the חלול and קידוש are all about the קרבנות, which is why it’s here.
But that’s not how חז״ל understood it. נקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל is a separate מצוה, the idea of מסירת נפש, martyrdom:
It’s important to note that there are two different imperatives here. The “big three” are ייהרג ואל יעבור even if no one will ever know. קידוש השם is only a public declaration, that obeying G-d’s will is more important than life itself.
So what’s the connection with rest of the paragraph? I haven’t seen anyone deal with this directly, but the Meshech Chochma puts the other mitzvot together:
Rav Kaminetzky adds that the law of פיגול also fits this pattern:
These are laws of sacrifices and slaughtering that are meant to keep us from becoming too cruel, too inured to the thought of death:
And this is important. It’s too easy to see the violence of slaughter as an inherent part of worship:
I think this sequence of מצוות is to teach us about קידוש השם and מסירת נפש. It is a warning not to let it turn into human sacrifice. מסירת נפש is sometimes required but it has to be clear that the result will be a קידוש השם. It’s a very short distance between giving up ones life על קידוש השם and suicide bombing.
If I may over-read Rashi:
He of course means that one should not be מוסר עצמו planning on being saved by a miracle, but נס also means a banner, a flag to rally around. I think that מסירת נפש על מנת הנס, martyrdom with the intention of inspiring others, is doomed to failure.
Our aim should be to live על קידוש השם, not to die על קידוש השם.
As Rav Lichtenstein says, we need to care how others see us, as long as their standards are those that we share:
To end, I would like add a wonderful quote from David Weiss Halivni. He resigned from JTS when they voted to give women rabbinic ordination. His opposition was not so much with the conclusion, but with the process. There was no halachic decision-making, no looking to Jewish sources and tradition. The result was decided, then the justifications were invented. He sacrificed his career על קידוש השם.