Kiddush Ha-Shem and Ḥillul Ha-Shem
KIDDUSH HA-SHEM AND ḤILLUL HA-SHEM
KIDDUSH HA-SHEM AND ḤILLUL HA-SHEM (Heb. קִדּוּשׁ הַשֵּׁם וְחִלּוּל הַשֵּׁם). The antithetical terms kiddush ha-Shem ("sanctification of the [Divine] Name") and ḥillul ha-Shem ("defamation of the [Divine] Name") are complementary antonyms and denote the two aspects of one of the most significant concepts in Judaism. They imply, respectively, the glorification of the God of Israel and the diminution of His honor. The specific terms are rabbinic; the concepts themselves, however, are biblical in origin and are included among the 613 commandments: "Ye shall keep My commandments and do them: I am the Lord. Ye shall not profane My holy Name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel; I am the Lord who hallow you" (Lev. 22:31, 32). The entire people was subject to these principles, although the priests were especially cautioned to avoid ḥillul ha-Shem (Lev. 21:6; 22:2).
In the Bible
Two patterns of thought are discernible in the biblical conception of kiddush ha-Shem and ḥillul ha-Shem. One considers God as the primary actor, while Israel remains passive; the other regards the Israelites as the initiators of either the sanctification or the desecration of God's Name. The first is fully crystallized in Ezekiel (chs. 20, 36, 39), for whom the sanctification of the Name is essentially an act of the Lord bestowed upon Israel before the onlooking nations of the world. The Name is sanctified when God wondrously redeems Israel and the gentiles behold the vindication of the divine promise and are moved to worship Him. Inversely, if the Lord visits privation or exile upon Israel, or suffers the people to remain in captivity, the nations question God's strength or faithfulness, and the Name is thus defamed. This general rubric holds true for Ezekiel (with the exception of 20:39) and for most instances of kiddush ha-Shem in the Pentateuch.
According to the second view, man is responsible for God's honor in the eyes of the world. Moses and Aaron were punished because of their failure to sanctify God's Name (Num. 20:12; Deut. 32:51). God's Name must be sanctified not only before the gentiles but in the eyes of Israel as well (ibid., and Lev. 22:32). Jeremiah accuses his countrymen of profaning God's Name when they circumvent the law and emancipate their slaves only to capture and enslave them again (34:16). Amos condemned extortion from the poor and immorality as ḥillul ha-Shem (2.7).
The rabbinic tradition laid more emphasis on the personal-ethical than on the national-redemptive significance of the concept. It developed especially the second view of the biblical theme: human initiative, and a wider designation so as to include Jews as well as non-Jews. It could even be performed in private with no one present, as in the case of Joseph who, by restraining himself in the face of temptation, fulfilled the sanctification of God's Name (Sot. 36b). This does not mean that the rabbis entirely ignored kiddush ha-Shem and ḥillul ha-Shem as divine acts. When God decided to visit destruction indiscriminately on both the righteous and the wicked of Sodom, Abraham protested that this would be ḥillul ha-Shem (Gen. R. 49:9). Were God to have permitted Absalom to slay his father David, His Name would have been publicly profaned (Sanh. 107a). The punishment of the righteous for their sins, relative to their own high standards, is divine kiddush ha-Shem (Sifra to Shemini 45d; Zev. 115b).
The sanctification of God's Name before gentiles was always a potent element in the folk understanding of the concept. The rabbis, however, for the most part, concerned themselves with the active role of man in the drama of bestowing glory upon, or detracting from, the honor of God. This human initiative in kiddush ha-Shem could be consummated in three different ways: martyrdom, exemplary ethical conduct, and prayer.
The readiness to sanctify God's Name has its most dramatic expression in the willingness to die a martyr, and since tannaitic times the term kiddush ha-Shem also denotes martyrdom (see below Historical Aspects). When a person willingly suffers death rather than violate one of three specific commandments (see below) he achieves kiddush ha-Shem; if he fails to do so in these cases, or in other instances where the halakhah demands martyrdom, he is guilty of ḥillul ha-Shem (Av. Zar. 27b; Sanh. 74a, b). On the verses, "Ye shall not profane My holy Name,… I am the Lord who hallow you, brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord" (Lev. 22:32, 33), the rabbis taught: "On this condition did I bring you out of the land of Egypt that you submit yourselves to sanctify My Name, that I be your God even by force; I the Lord am faithful to grant you your reward" (Sifra, Emor, Perek 9). Since the second century, "to die for the sanctification of the Name" has been the accepted idiom for dying a martyr's death. A martyr was, appropriately, called a kadosh, one who is holy. In time, this honorific was extended and applied as well to those who died solely because they were Jewish even without their consciously offering up their lives for religious purposes (Moshe Lamm, Darkah shel ha-Yahadut be-Mavet u-ve-Avelut (2005), 221–222.) A child, growing up in the Jewish tradition, was exposed to the concept of martyrdom as an ideal. From his earliest youth he was taught stories about martyrs, e.g., *Hannah and her seven sons, R. *Akiva and the other of the *ten martyrs; the latter in the form of a lamentation is part of the synagogue service on the *Day of Atonement and on the Ninth of *Av. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Dan. 3) are held up by the rabbis as models of conduct in the sanctification of the Name (Pes. 53b).
At the famous rabbinical council in *Lydda (second century), the laws of martyrdom were formulated. Kiddush ha-Shem was declared obligatory in the case of three commandments and a person had to suffer death rather than violate them: idolatry, unchastity (gillui arayot: including incest, adultery, and, under certain circumstances, any infraction of the code of sexual morality), and murder (Sanh. 74a). One should violate all other commandments rather than suffer death. Should a Jew, however, in the presence of ten other Jews, be coerced into transgressing these other laws in order to demonstrate his apostasy, he must sanctify God's Name and choose death. If ten Jews are not present, he should transgress rather than be killed. These rules hold for "normal" times. In times of religious persecution of the entire community, however, one must choose to die for kiddush ha-Shem even if no other Israelites are present, and one must not violate any commandment, including minor customs which are distinctively Jewish (Maim. Yad, Yesodei ha-Torah, 5:3). Martyrdom rather than violation, when transgression is permissible, became a point of discussion; the halakhah had to decide between two opposing principles – that of sanctifying God's Name versus that of preserving life ("and he shall live by them" (Lev. 18:5), i.e., the commandments). According to Maimonides, a person who chose kiddush ha-Shem where the law decides for life is culpable (Maim. ibid., 5:1); others consider such voluntary martyrdom praiseworthy (Tos. Av. Zar. 27b). The Ashkenazi talmudists were instinctual rather than rationalistic in their attitude to martyrdom – an attitude characteristic of most of medieval German Jewry. The tosafists reacted negatively to the problem as it is viewed in the halakhah. They recoiled – "Heaven forbid!" – from such formal halakhic reasoning that does not require martyrdom of a person forced to worship an idol in private, and they demanded obligatory kiddush ha-Shem (Tos. Av. Zar. 54a).
Among modern halakhic authorities, the question whether an individual should sacrifice his life in order to save the entire community is a point of contention. Rabbi A.I. Kook considered it obligatory as an emergency measure (Mishpat Kohen (19662), no. 143). Others regarded such action as meritorious but not mandatory (J.J. Weinberg, Seridei Esh, 1 (1961), 303–16). The problem arose often during the Holocaust in Europe. In one typical responsum of this period, the question was asked whether (considering the danger to the emissary who might be imprisoned and killed) a particular rabbi should accept his mission of approaching the Lithuanian henchmen of the Nazi authorities in Kovno in 1941 in order to release certain Jews. The answer was that he may not be ordered to accept the mission but he should do so as an act of piety; he did, and subsequently survived (E. Oshry, Mi-Ma'amakim, 2 (1963), responsum no. 1). The same work also includes a discussion on a contemporaneous practical problem: the wording of the blessing to be recited upon being martyred for the sanctification of God's Name (ibid., no. 4). The question was first raised by R. Isaiah ha-Levi *Horowitz (16th–17th centuries) who initially was reluctant to sanction a blessing over the mitzvah of martyrdom because one should not seek out a situation which would require him to surrender his life. Later, however, he agreed to the blessing over kiddush ha-Shem.
The sages of the Talmud were divided in their opinions as to whether gentiles are required to sanctify God's Name. *Abbaye held that a non-Jew who is forced to violate one of the seven Noachide laws is not obligated to suffer kiddush ha-Shem; *Rava maintained that he is (Sanh. 74b). The accepted ruling is that non-Jews are not required to sanctify the Name (tj, Shev. 4:3, 35b; Maim. Yad, Melakhim, 10:2). According to some authorities, however, a gentile must perform kiddush ha-Shem rather than be forced to commit murder (Mishneh le-Melekh, to Yad, ibid.).
The ideal of man's initiative in sanctifying God's Name beyond the strict requirements of the law was developed by rabbinic tradition in the area of ethical conduct. When *Simeon b.*Shetaḥ bought an ass from an Arab and his servants were delighted at finding a jewel hanging from its neck, he at once returned the gem to its owner, who cried out, "Blessed be the God of the Jews Who renders His people so scrupulous in their dealings with other men" (tj, bm., 2:5, 8c). His supererogatory conduct is considered kiddush ha-Shem. Joshua kept his oath to the Gibeonites, though they exacted it from him by fraud (Git. 46a). Moral acts such as Joseph's restraint in the face of temptation and Judah's public confession of his relations with Tamar are also considered kiddush ha-Shem (Sot. 10b).
The designation of an unethical act as ḥillul ha-Shem proved a powerful deterrent. The punishment for such is immediate, even if the sin was unintentional (Shab. 33a); it is the most heinous of all sins (tj, Ned. 3:14, 38b) and only death can atone for it (Yoma 86a). According to R. Akiva, there is no forgiveness at all for it (arn1 39).
In the Talmud, the concepts of kiddush ha-Shem and ḥillul ha-Shem are discussed with reference to stealing from a non-Jew (bk 113a–b). According to R. Akiva, the law itself prohibits this, and thus protects all property, whether of a Jew or non-Jew. R. Ishmael, however, holds that biblical law applies formally only to the relation of Jews with fellow Jews. The protection of non-Jews, therefore, requires a supplementary principle, that of kiddush ha-Shem. Hence, ethical perfection beyond the minimum standards of the law itself becomes law, that of sanctifying the Name: reflecting honor upon God and the Torah by striving for moral excellence. Although medieval talmudists almost unanimously decided in favor of R. Akiva, they had to use the themes of kiddush ha-Shem and ḥillul ha-Shem to plug occasional loopholes in the formal law. They often cited the Tosefta (bk 10:15) that stealing from a non-Jew is a worse crime than stealing from a Jew, since the former includes ḥillul ha-Shem as well as "ye shall not steal."
Kiddush ha-Shem imposes special and exacting standards of conduct on the scholar. He must, for instance, pay his debts promptly, never cause embarrassment to his colleagues, not walk four cubits without tallit or tefillin, and not overindulge in merrymaking (Yoma 86a; Av. Zar. 28a; Maim. Yad, Yesodei ha-Torah, 5:11).
While the ethical moment is quite strong in kiddush ha-Shem, the latter should not be interpreted exclusively as moral behavior toward others. Kiddush ha-Shem includes martyrdom for any of a number of reasons: refusing to worship an idol, under certain conditions circumcising one's son or studying Torah or abiding by the dietary laws. In all these cases, it is not necessarily a question of performance in the presence of non-Jews. The halakhah considers any consciously rebellious act against God as ḥillul ha-Shem (Maim. ibid., 5:10). The principal motif of kiddush ha-Shem is religious and this includes the ethical dimension; the aim of the latter is not so much to teach the world morality as to increase the respect of the world for the morality of Judaism (H.G. Friedman, see bibliography). Principally, kiddush ha-Shem seeks to demonstrate to Jew and non-Jew alike the power of the Jewish commitment to God and to Torah.
Kiddush ha-Shem also found expression in prayer. This took two forms. One was in a liturgical declaration of readiness to accept martyrdom if necessary: "'Nay, but for Thy sake are we killed all the day; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter' (Ps. 44:23). Is it then possible to be 'killed all the day?' When one takes upon himself to sanctify His great Name every day, he is accounted as 'sheep for the slaughter'" (Sif. Deut. 6:5). Similarly, when reciting the *Shema, a person must spiritually intend the readiness to offer himself for kiddush ha-Shem (Zohar, Num. 195b). Second, the recital of the prayer is itself regarded as an act of sanctification of God's Name. A number of such liturgical expressions of kiddush ha-Shem have been found in the Merkabah literature (G. Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition (19652), Appendix C).
Two formal prayers stand out in this respect: the *Kedushah and the *Kaddish. The Kedushah is based on the Song of the Seraphim in Isaiah 6:1–3. The more esoteric Kedushah, recited before the Shema, refers to the praise of God by the angels, while the Kedushah of the *Amidah prayer speaks of Israel sanctifying God's Name. The more esoteric Kedushah, recited before the Shema, refers to the praise of God by the angels, while the Kedushah of the Amidah prayer speaks of Israel sanctifying God's Name. The latter is parallel to and perhaps surpasses the Kedushah of the angels, adding a cosmic element to the theme of kiddush ha-Shem. The Zohar (Lev. 93a) considers the key verse "I will be hallowed among the children of Israel" (Lev. 22:32) as the source and warrant for the Kedushah.
In the Kaddish, the key parts refer quite literally to the "sanctification" of the "Name." At a comparatively early period, the Kaddish was already ascribed to the biblical source of kiddush ha-Shem (Zedekiah b. Abraham ha-Rofe, Shibbolei ha-Leket, ed. S.K. Mirsky (1966), 149–50). The absence of any specific Divine Name in this prayer, and the emphasis on the "Name" as such, has been thought by some scholars to have been deliberate, in order to emphasize its idiomatic affinity to the biblical " kiddush ha-Shem. " It has been suggested that the Kaddish was originally recited by martyrs who, at the threshold of death, declared the sanctification of God's Name and consoled the bereaved onlookers by speaking of the redemption and the Messiah "in your lifetime and in your days" (J. Kaufman, Midreshei Ge'ullah (19542), 58 n. 12, quoting Ḥ.N. Bialik). S.Y. Agnon's interpretation carries the impact of poetic truth, if not historic accuracy: the orphan's recitation of the Kaddish (Samukh ve-Nireh, " Petiḥah le-Kaddish "), is a kind of consolation to God who sustained a double ḥillul ha-Shem – His Name both diminished and desecrated by the loss of even a single soldier (who as a human being is irreplaceable) in the legions of the Almighty; hence, the prayer that the injured Name be magnified and sanctified.R. Joseph B. *Soloveitchik writes movingly that "through the Kaddish we hurl defiance at death and its fiendish conspiracy against man. [The mourner] declares more or less the following: no matter how powerful death is … no matter how black one's despair is … we declare and profess publicly and solemnly that we are not giving up, that we are not surrendering, that we will carry on the work of our ancestors as if nothing had happened, that we will be satisfied with nothing less than the full realization of the ultimate goal – the establishment of God's kingdom ("Aninut and Avelut," in: David Shatz, B. Wolowelsky, and Reuven Ziegler (eds.), Out of the Whirlwind: Essays on Morality, Suffering, and the Human Condition (2003), p. 5).
Kiddush Hashem: Historical Aspects
The concept of kiddush ha-Shem has thus always been implicit in the Judaic faith and view of life. Its first explicit expression occurred during the confrontation of Judaism with *Hellenism, the first pagan culture with "missionary" and synthesizing tendencies. The Book of Daniel tells about the three "Jewish men" – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego – who disobeyed a royal command to worship an idol and endangered their lives. Under *Antiochus Epiphanes Hellenization employed violent and coercive methods in regard to Jews. After the victorious revolt of the Hasmoneans, a Jew in the Hellenistic Diaspora recorded the martyrdom of an old man, little children, and their mother who had died for their faith:
Eleazar, one of the principal scribes,… of a noble countenance, was compelled to eat swine's flesh … Now those in charge of that forbidden sacrificial feast took the man aside, for the sake of old acquaintance, and privately urged him to bring some flesh of his own providing, such as he was lawfully allowed to use, and to pretend he was really eating of the sacrifice which the king had ordered, so that in this way he might escape death and be kindly treated for the sake of their old friendship. But he with a high resolve, worthy of his years and of the dignity of his descent … and, still more, of the holy laws divinely ordained, spoke his mind accordingly:… "It ill becomes our years to dissemble," said he, "and thus lead many younger persons to imagine that Eleazar in his ninetieth year has gone over to a heathenish religion … for the mere sake of enjoying this brief and momentary life … Even were I for the moment to evade the punishment of men, I should not escape the hands of the Almighty in life or in death … I will … leave behind me a noble example to the young how to die willingly and nobly on behalf of our reverend and holy laws." With these words he stepped forward at once to the instrument of torture, while those who a moment before had been friendly turned against him, deeming his language to be that of a sheer madman…. Under the strokes of torture, he groaned out: "The Lord who has holy knowledge understandeth that, although I might have been freed from death, I endure cruel pains in my body from scourging and suffer this gladly in my soul, because I fear Him" (ii Macc. 6:18–30; Charles, Apocrypha, 140).
The basic ideals motivating kiddush ha-Shem are thus set out at this early stage: personal nobility and courage, a categorical refusal to employ any form of dissimulation or live an undercover existence, and readiness to undergo bodily and spiritual torture in the full knowledge that this behavior may appear sheer madness to those who inflict it. Hannah, "the mother of the Maccabees" according to Christian tradition, exhorts her seven sons in a similar way not to be afraid of either hangmen or death. These figures became the prototypes for and symbols of martyrdom and martyrs in both Judaism and Christianity. The Fourth Book of Maccabees is almost entirely a philosophical sermon on the meaning and glory of kiddush ha-Shem in Hellenistic times.
Whereas in the Christian and Muslim interpretation the Jewish kiddush ha-Shem became an act of mainly individual martyrdom, the lot of saints chosen by God for their individual path of suffering – and (in Christianity) their participation in the mystery of Crucifixion, the martyred saints following Christ on the cross – in Judaism kiddush ha-Shem remained a task set for each and every Jew to fulfill if the appropriate moment came. It found logical expression in the readiness to die as a son of the Chosen People. In the war against Rome of 66–70/73, whole communities committed suicide as a culmination of their fight against alien power. Thus, in the many trials of revolt and war in which Jews were tested, from the wars of liberation of the Maccabees up to the failure of the revolts against the Romans both in Ereẓ Israel and the Diaspora, kiddush ha-Shem acted as a motivating force giving meaning to the struggle of the Jewish warriors, strength of endurance under cruel torture by victors, and offering suicide as a way out of submission and slavery. The famous mass suicide at *Masada was inspired more by the conception of kiddush ha-Shem as a commandment, and a proud refusal to submit to the Roman enemy, than by the philosophical argumentations that Josephus, an arch enemy of the self-sacrificing *Zealots, put in the mouths of the defenders of Masada.
As if referring to an everyday, ordinary incident, one of the tannaim describes "those who dwell in the land of Israel and risk their lives for the sake of the commandments: 'Why are you being led out to be decapitated?' 'Because I circumcised my son to be an Israelite.' 'Why are you being led out to be burned?' 'Because I read the Torah.' 'Why are you being led out to be crucified?' 'Because I ate the unleavened bread.' 'Why are you getting a hundred lashes?' 'Because I performed the ceremony of the lulav.' These wounds caused me to be beloved of my Father in heaven" (Mekh. Ba-Ḥodesh, 6). They were conscious that this behavior appeared strange to the gentiles who asked the Jews: What is the nature of your God that "you are so ready to die for Him, and so ready to let yourselves be killed for Him … you are handsome, you are mighty, come and intermingle with us" (Mekh. Shirata, 3). *Samaritans also chose the Jewish path of kiddush ha-Shem in the course of their revolts and sufferings for the Torah and its truth as they conceived it.
The ideology of kiddush ha-Shem and devotion to it as crystallized in antiquity continued and strengthened in the Middle Ages. Christian persecution and the humiliation meted out to Jews intensified the underlying wish to safeguard individuality, and fortified the ethic of kiddush ha-Shem in the struggle to preserve their national identity and freedom to profess their faith. For Jews living in the lands of their enemies kiddush ha-Shem became the only convincing way of asserting when faced with Christian missionary coercion that if they were not to be permitted to live openly as Jews they chose not to live at all. Surrounded by feudal warriors and the feudal mode of fighting, torn from their country and appearing as aliens everywhere, for Jews *suicide as kiddush ha-Shem was in many cases the only way in which they could exemplify and give expression to human courage. When confronted by brute force, Jews tried to defend themselves wherever and however they could; however, since they often failed, as was inevitable in the case of a small minority, readiness to die was the only way of maintaining a lofty exemplar for Jewish existence. Where Christian knights ruled through their warrior techniques and conformed to their specific knightly scale of values, Jews, influenced involuntarily by this spirit, could hold their own - both in point of physical survival and more importantly from the spiritual and psychological aspect - only through ultimate readiness to face the supreme sacrifice.
In the 11th century the conception of holy war became predominant in Western Christian thought. Popular religious feeling in the West became more fanatical and was often connected with social unrest. Even before the beginning of the *crusades, cases of suicide to avoid forced conversion to Christianity are recorded. The suicide of Jews in the tenth century in southern Italy for the sake of their faith is described by contemporaries as "pure total burnt offering" (olah temimah). In the spring of 1096 many of the participants in the First Crusade conceived that their armed pilgrimage to free the sepulcher of Jesus logically demanded either the extinction of the Jewish religion in Christian countries or the annihilation of those Jews who would not accept Christianity. In the atmosphere of holy war many Jews believed that the glory of the Lord and the honor of their Law would be debased if they did not bear witness for them by open and public proclamation of their abiding truth in a chivalrous manner. Thus, through the curious workings of historic irony the Christian crusading venture and Jewish martyrdom by kiddush ha-Shem each became in its own particular way expressions of a holy war waged for the glory of God.
During the crusading onslaught on them in 1096 the communities of the Rhine district sacrificed themselves for their faith in this spirit. Those who remained alive related the sacrifices of the martyrs in the same spirit. Thousands of Jews lost their lives in the course of those terrible months; a few of the victims fell in direct battle, and the majority perished through suicides of whole families. In the chronicles of the massacres of the First Crusade and the threnodies composed on the martyrs the ideology of kiddush ha-Shem is reformulated. A mother in Mainz is related as having said that she killed her children as sacrifices to God to fulfill His commandment to be "whole with him" (liheyot temimim immo) (A.M. Habermann (ed.), Sefer Gezerot Ashkenaz ve-Ẓarefat (1945), 34), thus tacitly framing a condemnation of forced converts leading a halfhearted underground existence as *anusim. The writings about these acts employ the ancient symbols of aggadic literature – *Akedah, *Abraham's bosom, and the divine light which will be vouchsafed to the martyrs, and stress the open challenge offered to the crusaders by the Jews who proclaimed the superiority of their faith over Christianity. The silence of the sources sometimes bears eloquent testimony to the conception of kiddush ha-Shem as the Jewish way of waging the holy war: the pillage and robbery, loss of property and homes that accompanied the attacks are only hinted at, while the motives of the crusaders are formulated in a way that conveys their Christian religious determinants only (see ibid., pp. 24, 26, 27, 72, 93, 94). Wherever possible, in these attacks Jews tried to fight off their assailants at the gates and at the entrances to houses (ibid., pp. 30–31a, 33, 97, 99–100), but when their endeavors at defense failed they killed themselves and took special care to slay their children first to prevent them from being carried off and brought up as Christians. Such sources describe these events for future generations not as acts committed out of desperation but from the feeling that these Jews had chosen to die in this way so that the remnant of the nation should be able to continue its existence with pride. The community of *Xanten is remembered for having added to their last communal benediction after food, just before the mass suicide, the following prayer: "The merciful One will avenge in the days of those who will remain after us, before their eyes the blood shed by your servants and the blood that is to be shed" (ibid., p. 49).
After the wholesale burning of Jews at the stake in *Blois in 1171 a Jewish sage signing his name "Ovadiah" summed up something like a set of rules for Jewish behavior under enemy sovereignty, speaking as if from the mouths of the martyred: "For the saints have proclaimed … if the rulers decree … as to taxation … it is permissible … to plead to ease the burden … but … when they take it into their evil hearts … to blandish, to terrorize, to make them impure [through apostasy] … the chosen ones shall answer … we shall pay no heed to your lies … we shall remain true" [to the Jewish faith] (see S. Spiegel, in: Sefer ha-Yovel… Mordekhai Menaḥem Kaplan (1953), 286). This steadfastness continued to fortify Jews throughout the tribulations, libels, and massacres to which they were subjected in these centuries. When the Nordhausen community was led to be burned on the pyre during the *Black Death massacres in 1349 they obtained permission to hire musicians, and went singing and dancing to their deaths. Medieval Jewish prayer books include, in addition to the benedictions for bread and drink, a benediction to be recited by a Jew before killing himself and his children. Special memorial lists were compiled to preserve the memory of those who had sacrificed themselves for kiddush ha-Shem (see *Memorbuch). As the victims of the blood *libel, Host *desecration libel, and other calumnies were subjected to continuous torture intended to extort "confessions," endurance under excruciating pain or suicide to avoid making a false confession came to be considered a true manifestation of kiddush ha-Shem.
Among the Jews of Christian Spain kiddush ha-Shem was recognized both as a phenomenon distinguishing Ashkenazi Jewry and a problem to be reckoned with in their own existence, as the writings of Judah Halevi and Naḥmanides show for the 12th and 13th centuries. From the end of the 14th century kiddush ha-Shem became part of the fate and sufferings of Spanish Jewry, whether upheld through massacres, persecutions, or libels as Jews openly professing their faith, or under the fire and torture of the *Inquisition chambers and tribunals as anusim. *Abraham b. Eliezer ha-Levi applied the ancient Maccabean tradition and theory of kiddush ha-Shem to the victim of the torture chambers and at the auto-da-fé:
Whoever firmly resolves to devote himself to the honor of His name … such a man, being exposed to cruel tortures and sorely tormented, as was the case with the holy martyrs in the Land, those marvelous young men, the sons of saintly Hannah, in the days when the priests could come near the Presence of God; they were the heroes who fought God's battles – if such a man will but concentrate and put between his eyes the "awe-inspiring and great Name," resolve to undergo martyrdom, and his eyes will incline towards the Holy One of Israel … then he may be sure that he will withstand the test … nor feel any pain, blows or torments … And these things are worthy to be made known to His people Israel for the generation is one of religious persecution, and no Israelite should go in ignorance of this principle … And it may well be that it was to such a saintly person, who, albeit his soul is given over completely to God and rejoices in His love, is yet buried together with the wicked and consumed by fire, the wise Solomon alluded when he said (Song 8:5), "Who is that coming up from the wilderness, Leaning upon her beloved?" For the promise of the Lord proves true: she [the soul] leans and falls, limb by limb and piece by piece; but of such a saintly soul the righteous who dwell in the innermost mansion of the King, where joy resides, expound: Who is that coming up from the terrestrial world, which is like unto a wilderness?… Out of love for her beloved her body falls part by part; because of the trials she undergoes, her flesh pierced by tongs or cut to pieces by the sword; and the King, to Whom all peace belongs, for Whose love she suffers so, looks down from His abode and proclaims as she ascends to Him: "Behold thou are upright and pure, today have I begotten thee" (Ps. 2:7), and "under the apple tree I awakened thee" (Song. 8:5) (as quoted in Baer, Spain, 2 (1966), 430–1).
In this early 16th-century summation the wheel has turned full circle: the motives which inspired individuals to choose the path of kiddush ha-Shem at the time of the clash with Hellenism merge with the sufferings of the tortured body of the individual Jew in his pain and fire-wracked isolation looking from his physical breakdown to his meeting with the loving God in heaven.
In early modern times the general trends of enlightenment and abatement of medieval religious pressures were accompanied by growing secularization in Jewish life and thought, leanings toward assimilation, and striving for emancipation, all factors which both separately and in combination conduced to disintegration in Jewish society and abandonment of specifically Jewish values. Thus, while the necessity to uphold kiddush ha-Shem diminished in fact, the concept also lost actuality and significance.
With the awakening of Jewish national feeling in later modern times, as expressed by the formation of political parties like the *Bund, the organization of *self-defense against pogroms, and Zionism, the principle of kiddush ha-Shem reasserted its influence, consciously or subconsciously, manifested in new ideological frames for the defense of Jewish dignity and in modes of response by Jews to social and spiritual challenge. Jewish revolutionary attitudes bear its imprint in the courage and readiness to struggle and self-sacrifice for the sake of humanity even when there is no immediate prospect of victory on the horizon. In the same way, the fight and death of the rebels in the Nazi ghettos was ultimately inspired by this ancient Jewish tradition.
Kiddush ha-Shem is an original contribution by the Jewish faith and culture to the whole monotheistic world. Through it was expressed for the first time in human history the readiness of simple people to die for their faith and opinions. It is an ultimate prop of individual expression when all other physical supports have been withdrawn.
Kiddush ha-Shem has played a central and formative role in Jewish history, both through the reality of the sacrifices made to uphold it as well as through the spiritual images and attitudes by which it has been activated. It is a powerful and valid expression of human courage and readiness for supreme sacrifice. In a large measure due to the principle of kiddush ha-Shem Jews have escaped spiritual degradation throughout the long *galut ("Diaspora"), thus failing to justify the hopes and views of their enemies and detractors. Through it courage and the spirit to resist have been continuously kept alive in Jewish hearts and transmitted to posterity from the days of Daniel to the present. Individual exemplary behavior and collective enthusiasm have sustained it in changing situations and forms.
The valor and heroism shown in defense of the State of Israel in the 20th century can be seen as the direct inheritance of chivalrous courage which Jews from generation to generation have transmitted in upholding the principle of kiddush ha-Shem.
[Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson]
H.G. Friedman, in: huca (1904), 193–214; I. Gruenwald, in: Molad, 1 (1967/68), 476–84; A. Holz, in: Judaism, 10 (1961), 360–7; J. Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance (1961), ch. 7 and passim. historical aspects: Roth, Marranos; Baer, Spain; idem, in: Sefer Assaf (1953), 126–40; Baron, Social2, index, s.v.Martyrs; S. Spiegel, in: Sefer ha-Yovel… Mordekhai Menaḥem Kaplan (1953), 267–87; Ha-Ḥevrah ha-Historit ha-Yisre'elit, Milḥemet Kodesh u-Martirologyah (1968); H.H. Ben-Sasson, in: idem, Historiyyonim ve-Askolot Historiyyot (1962), 29–40; idem (ed.), Toledot Am Yisrael, 3 vols. (1969).