Recently, in a school in Israel, a child was hit by a rebbe for “misbehaving.” According Kikar Shabbos News, this older teacher struck the student quite hard and has a history of similar acts of violence against children. The boys’ parents called the police and a complaint was filed against the teacher.
It was an awful event, but the parents heeded the Torah commandments of al sa’amod al dam reyecha (don’t stand idly by your neighbor’s blood) as well as tzedek tzedek tirdof (righteousness, righteousness, you shall pursue). They took a negative situation and acted in accordance with Jewish law, in order to right a wrong.
But then things took a turn for the worse. A number of rabbis intervened, reached out to the parents who had reported the teacher, and pressured them to drop the charge (which they agreed to). The rabbis’ reasoning? A rebbe in trouble with the law is a chillul Hashem – a negative mitzvah which comes from the Torah verse, “You shall not desecrate My holy Name.”
Now on one hand, those rabbis are correct. A rebbe who does something bad does desecrate God’s holy Name. How could a teacher of Torah have done something so awful to a child? Nevertheless, it is twisted thinking and a corruption of Judaism to believe that covering up a chillul Hashem removes the chillul Hashem. All it does is multiply it, as suddenly more rabbis are involved in preventing justice from taking place and protecting the innocent.
There is a famous idea that when Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge, though he had made a mistake, he wasn’t in too much trouble at first. God confronts him and asks what he has done. At that moment he could have fessed up, come clean, begged for forgiveness, and world history would have been forever altered for the good. A negative could have turned positive. But instead, Adam shirked responsibility and passed the buck to Eve, and then the punishments and curses began.
So too, when a crime or misdeed occurs, that is only the first part of the problem. If it is dealt with justly and swiftly a chillul Hashem can lead to a kiddush Hashem – a sanctification of God’s holy Name. What could be holier than people caring for innocents and making sure the guilty are punished accordingly.
May we merit to have our nation avoid the behavior that causes chillul Hashem in the first place. But if negative and harmful events do occur, may we have the clarity and strength to deal with those situations justly and righteously.