Re: Dying "al kiddush Hashem"

Jonathan Katz (frisch1@MIT.EDU)
Sun, 09 Feb 1997 12:45:25 EST

Moshe Schapiro wrote:
<< From various religious newspapers articles I've read, it seems that
*all* those who were murdered in the Holocaust are considered to have died
"al kiddush Hashem" (in the sanctification of G-d's Name), including
individuals who had cut off all ties to their Jewish heritage. It also
seems that victims of anti-Israeli terror and Israeli soldiers who died in
action are also included in this category. I thought only those who give up
their lives in order not to transgress a Torah law earn this distinction.
Does anybody know of a source which discusses this issue? >>

I think we need to clarify what we mean by dying "al-kiddush Hashem".
If the question is: when is one required to give up one's life for Hashem,
then there is a definite halachic answer to this.

However, if you are asking about the common practice of saying that people
have died "al-kiddush Hashem" then this is really a moot point. The term
means that the person's death was a "sanctification of God's name". If
a non-religious Jew died in the holocaust, or an Israeli soldier died in
an accident, is it any less of a sanctification of God's name? Does
it really make sense to start ranking people's deaths to see whose death
was more of a sanctification?

Besides, if any one person thinks that someone's death sanctifies the name,
then by definition, it did.

Jonathan Katz
410 Memorial Drive Room 233F
Cambridge, MA 02139