The Torah was given to us so that we may sanctify God's name. The ideal of human 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 conduct going above and beyond the requirements of the law is considered Kiddush Hashem.
The news over the weekend from Gainsville, FL and its repurcussions in Afganistan were text book cases of Chillul Hashem, the descration of God’s name. God’s name was desecrated first by a Christian evengelical minister and then by Muslum Imans and thousands of their followers. Pastor Terry Jones held a mock trial of the Koran. The “jury” found it guilty of five “crimes against humanity” including the promotion of terrorist acts and “the death, rape and torture of people world wide whose only crime is not being of the Islamic faith.” Then the church members burned the Koran.
Now we all know the Devil can quote scripture. In any holy book including our Torah, anybody can find statements and laws which are morally abhorent to the modern person. Each tradition has its own way of dealing with those troublesome verses to mitigate or even uproot their original intent. Just as the Nazis committed a Chillul Hashem when they burnt our holy books, so too I believe that this pastor committed a Chillul Hashem. What kind of God does he believe in that would sanction the burning of somebody else’s holy book!
The Muslim response to the burning of the Koran began on Friday when Muslim mobs overwhelmed a United Nations compound and killed 12 innocent men and women. The murders continued through today. Their only crime was not being Muslims. Certainly this has to be the second example of Chillul Hashem. How can Allah be happy with the murder of innocent men and women! Those murderers in the name of Islam as far as I am concerned desecrated God’s holy name.
Which Chillul Hashem is worse? I can’t speak for either Christianity or Islam; however, I know what Judaism teaches. Our tradition teaches us that a Jew must commit martyrdom, the most extreme form of Kiddush Hashem, for only 3 violations. When demanded to either commit murder, incest, or idolotry, the Jew chooses martyrdom as an act of Kiddush Hashem. The descration of the Torah is not one of those three for a person’s life is always holier and more sancrosanct than any book. In our eyes, the burning of the Koran is no justification to the taking of any human life especially those completely innocent of the crime.