Self Sacrifice with a Capital S

“…I shall be sanctified amidst the children of Israel…” – Vayikra 22:32

וְנִקְדַּשְׁתִּי בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל – ויקרא כב, לב

The Torah’s directive to cause G-d to be sanctified teaches us the obligation of mesirus nefesh, meaning, that in certain situations we must sacrifice even our lives in order not to disobey G-d’s commands. For when a Jew exhibits his commitment to G-d to the point that he is willing to surrender his life for Him, his devotion causes G-d to be revered and sanctified.

Now, from the verse in Tehilim (147:19), “He declares His words to Yaakov, His rules and His ordinances to Yisrael,” the Midrash learns that, “All that G-d instructs the Jewish people to do, He Himself fulfills as well” (Shemos Rabbah 30:9).Accordingly, if G-d commands the Jewish people to sacrifice their lives for the fulfillment of a mitzvah, it must be that G-d too observes this command!

Self Sacrifice

Where do we see this? In the mitzvah of examining a woman who is a Sotah, a woman accused of immoral behavior, who is prohibited to her husband until she is proven innocent.  In order to restore their marriage, the Torah provides a process in which a portion of the Torah, containing several mentions of G-d’s name, is erased into water for the Sotah to drink. The water will affect her negatively only if she is guilty. If it has no adverse effects on her, we consider her innocent and she may return to her husband.

It can thus be said that G-d too sacrifices Himself, as it were, (since “G-d is One and His name is One” [Zechariah 14:9],) for the fulfillment of a mitzvah. In the words of the Talmud (Shabbos 116a), “G-d declares: My Name, written in sanctity, shall be blotted out in water in order to make peace between a man and his wife!”

—Sefer Hasichos 5749 vol. 1, p. 290, ff. 68


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