"You shall not desecrate My Holy Name and you should sanctify Me
amidst the Children of Israel. I am HASHEM Who makes you holy, Who took
you out from Egypt to be for you a G-d, I am HASHEM." (Vayikra 22:31-
Man was only created to serve his Creator and if he fails to give over his
body for the service of his Master he is not a good servant. We find that
people are willing to surrender their lives for the cause of their earthly
masters, how much more so for the Mitzvah of the King of kings, the Holy
One Blessed Be He! (Chinuch)
If you think this sounds like a difficult Mitzvah, you're right. It is!
Although theoretically it is every man’s duty to be willing, not everyone
is granted the opportunity. How do we do this Mitzvah then if the
situation never arises? Even more, how can one ever be ready to do such a
thing if it ever arises as it did for so many Jews throughout our history?
In the Tzetel Katan the Rebbe Elimelech advises that one should exercise
the power of imagination and frequently picture himself successfully
following through with such a difficult decision.
When Rabbi Akiva was being led to his death for the crime of teaching
Torah he was observed reciting “Shema” and his students inquired as to why
he was doing so. He answered that all his life he had recited the
accompanying words, “And you should love HASHEM your G-d with all your
heart and with all your soul (ready to give up your life) and with all
your might.” Now he would finally have a chance to fulfill that which he
had spoken of and imagined. How, though could he remain so serene as they
were raking his flesh with combs of steel?
The Aish Kodesh who perished in the Warsaw Ghetto wrote, “The reason a
martyr feels no pain is that since the individual who is about to be
martyred is inflamed with a powerful yearning to surrender his life for
the sake of the sanctity of His Blessed Name, he raises up all his senses
and his entire physical being by means of that fervor for the world of
thought. Eventually he reaches the point where he is entirely vested in
thought so that his sensory awareness disappears, while feeling and
corporeality are stripped away so that he feels nothing but pleasure…”
Rabbi EE Dessler ztl. posits that this ability to give everything away for
HASHEM was installed in every Jew since the incident of the Akeida, by
Isaac who was willing to stretch his neck out for the sake of his Maker.
When the Nazis would storm a Polish town they would gain control by
systematically demoralizing the masses of Jews by publicly murdering the
leaders. In one particular town rumors spread amongst the SS that the
presumed gentile mayor was a Jew although his name was not Jewish. It was
in fact true that his mother’s mother had married a gentile and so did his
mother. For three generations they had not lived as or identified
themselves as Jews.
The Nazis had sure-fire test. They led him to the Synagogue and opened the
Ark and handed him a Sefer Torah and demanded that he throw it to the
ground and trample it. He held it firmly against his chest and
declared. “I want to thank you for returning me to my people and my G-d!”
They shot and killed him on the spot and he is to be counted amongst the
6,000,000 martyrs. We are left wondering, “Where does one find strength