By Shoshana Rosa
As a kid, I missed the social cues; innuendos, a quirk of the eyebrow and muffled laughter often went right over my little head. Once, I overheard a commercial on the radio pushing for animal rights. After two minutes, the advertiser triumphantly announced, "The animals have a right to live too!" Touched, I walked into shul (synagogue) that shabbos (Sabbath) with one object in mind: to lambast the first person I found in a fur coat. After davening (prayers), I found an old lady in a big mink complete with fur collar and sleeves large enough to fit five arms. I marched over and asked, "Excuse me, is that real fur?" "Why yes," the lady smiled, pleased that someone had noticed. "Well," I started, "Well, the animals have to live too!" Her mouth fell open and my mom, who was standing nearby, yanked me down the stairs and into the hot streets of New York City. "What were you thinking?" she muttered. I looked up into my mother's face. What? What did I do wrong?
The parallel between the anecdote of a ten year old and one who isn't familiar with halacha (Torah laws) has comical, and sometimes, frightening similarities. Do we care if we fossilize ourselves into the prenatal stage of ignorance regarding the Torah and its ordinances, statutes and laws for the rest of our lives? Just a cursory glance already makes sections of G-d's Torah seem the vaguest of texts. For instance, how are we supposed to know what the phrase, "You shall not profane My [G-d's] holy name" (Leviticus 22:32) means? What exactly is"profaning" G-d's name anyway? Lihavdil (to make a separation between topics), O.J. Simpson might have called ugly wives a disgrace to marriage while Martha Stuart might have called muddy boots a profanity to clean floors. The word is so vague that its interpretation seems doomed to float in orbit forever. However, coming back to the Torah, one who knows how to read and interpret G-d's divine word correctly will bring its proper meaning to light. As I've already mentioned multiple times, one such person was Rashi.
Profaning G-d's name means breaking His law for no better reason than to break the law. Classic illustration? The defiant teenager who yells at a cop for no better reason than to make that cops blood boil. A fifteen year old who doesn't have emotion hangups with the law, yet when the police are on his tail for behaving with misconduct etc., will egg the police on isn't making a very good impression. In a similar vein, the Chofez Chaim mentions in his sefer (book) that speaking loshon hara intentionally and/or without any motive for personal pleasure or gain is profaning G-d's name. Why would a person cause hurt if he had no personal gain or vindication in the matter? He is basically cutting his nose to spite his face. The commentaries in Leviticus tell us that this is considered a rebellion against Hashem.
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