Daf Yomi Nedarim 18
Lately, the Orthodox community has been bombarded with one piece of bad press after another. Some of the subjects of the controversies have indeed been found guilty beyond a doubt; others have seen supporters and detractors go to battle over lives and reputations. But in addition to all the pain and suffering experienced by those involved, one thing is clear: G-d Himself is suffering. When rabbis get bad press, G-d gets bad press. When Orthodoxy gets bad press, G-d gets bad press.
Beraisa: If in the case of an oath, the law is that it cannot take effect when another oath is already in place, should we not say that regarding vows of nazirism, which are less strict, a vow should not take effect when another vow is already in place?
The Gemara asks: From where do we derive that an oath is stricter than a vow?
The Gemara answers: Regarding oaths, the Torah declares, “You shall not take the name of Hashem your God in vain; for Hashem will not absolve anyone that takes His name in vain.”
Chilul Hashem – desecration of G-d’s Name – is worse than any other sin. In fact, one must rather accept death than a public desecration of Heaven, that’s how terrible it is. It doesn’t matter whether the person’s right or wrong; sometimes the question is simply ‘am I giving G-d a good name or not?’
Strictly speaking, you really only need to die rather than commit the three cardinal sins of murder, idolatry or immorality; but there’s one further category that fits the bill. If you feel that doing something is going to cause a public desecration of Heaven, even though it might seem innocuous to you, you may not do it under any circumstances.
You are an ambassador of G-d on earth! You don’t have to be a clergyman to be a G-dly person – once you accept the mission, you represent the Almighty! And so it’s no longer just about whether something is legally okay; your actions now need to be above suspicion or question in anyone’s eyes! Otherwise, people lose their respect for the G-d that you speak and act on behalf of. You are His ambassador on earth, people look to you to see the Divine presence in this world – don’t ever do anything that might give anyone the wrong impression whatsoever!
It’s a huge responsibility to represent the Almighty in this world. But you know that you’ve been chosen for this tremendous mission. May you merit being an awesome Divine ambassador, forever beyond reproach; righteous in G-d’s eyes and equally righteous in the eyes of man!