The Commission on Torah Projects of Agudath Israel of America in conjunction with Hakhel organized a Yom Iyun devoted to the theme of creating Kiddush Hashem.
The Yom Iyun, held in Agudath Israel of Madison, was broadcast live to more than 30 locations across the United States, Canada and Mexico. The event attracted several hundred men and women who came looking for inspiration on making the coming year a more spiritually rich experience.
The program began with a shiur given by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Mora D’Asra of the shul. He spoke movingly about the levels of Kiddush Hashem, quoting Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler in his sefer Michtav M’Eliyahu. He explained that the most elementary level of Kiddush Hashem takes place when one is alone and presented with moral choices. Only after mastering this step can one approach the second step of performing a Kiddush Hashem in public. Kavod Hashem, the third and most advanced level of Kiddush Hashem comes about when one has an overwhelming desire to ensure that even the nations of the world have a strong appreciation of Hashem.
The second speaker was Rabbi Elya Brudny, Rosh Yeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Flatbush. He noted the discrepancy between the concept of Hashem not being a mevater and our asking for leniency on Rosh Hashana. He explained that the two days of Rosh Hashanah offer a balance. The first day is din kasheh (strictness) and the second is din rafeh (leniency). In our Rosh Hashana tefillos, we ask Hashem to demonstrate His ability to show us mercy, as opposed to strict judgment, just as He did for Adam Harishon on the original Day of Judgment. Rabbi Brudny concluded by reiterating that our purpose in this world is to create Kiddush Hashem.
The third speaker was Rabbi Yaakov Reisman, Mora D’Asra of Agudath Israel of Long Island. Rabbi Reisman focused on the concept of “Yisroel bein ha’amim,” being a Jew amongst the nations. He explained that the word “bein” used in Havdalah indicates a separation of the Jewish people. He strongly stressed that this separation is an exhortation for the Jewish people to be different than those devoid of Torah and to behave in a dignified fashion at all times. Rabbi Reisman emphasized, that we are certainly humans, not melachim, but we must strive to elevate ourselves and serve as an example for others.
The half-day Yom Iyun ended with a powerful audio-visual presentation given by Rabbi Shraga Freedman, author of the highly acclaimed sefer “Living Kiddush Hashem.” There was a feeling of elevation in the air as everyone left the program more prepared for the yomim noraim ahead.