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Nafshi Tidom or Chilul Hashem


Rabbi Moshe Leib Halberstadt

Sivan 28, 5771
The other day I sat on the bus at the front, next to the window (the bus was empty when I got on). A frail, elderly woman with a cane sat next to me. A man with a cane got on the bus. I started to get up for him but couldn’t as even if I could have squeezed past the woman so she didn’t have to get up, I was blocked by the man as he was standing right next to the old woman and the bus was already moving. Eventually he moved his way up the bus a bit and found a seat, and then a woman got up and in a very loud voice said that it was a disgrace that I hadn’t stood up for him. Initially, I thought that I should say nothing and accept the insult in silence (nafshi tidom). Then I rethought that it was a chilul Hashem, as I am dressed like a dosit. Before getting off I went over to her to try to explain to her quietly what had happened, so she wouldn’t think badly of a religious Jew. She was very belligerent towards me, and said that she was not interested, and her comments were only said to her friend (which was not the case, she had stood up and said it so that everyone would hear, and at length). So I said to her fine, my comments are only for your friend too. And I told her friend what had happened. So my question is, in such a situation what is more important, to accept the insult in silence or not to create the impression of chilul Hashem?
You conducted yourself in a very appropriate and admirable manner. You tried performing a Mitzvah of kindness by getting up for an old man, but did not carry it out in this case as it was not possible and so it should not be at the expense of hurting another person (the old lady sitting beside you). Good intention the Holy One, blessed be He, combines with deed (Yerushalmi Pe'ah 5a, Bavli Kiddushin 40a). The woman attacked you for no fault of your own, and you did not answer her. On this Our Rabbis taught: Those who are insulted but do not insult, hear themselves reviled without answering, act through love and rejoice in suffering, of them the Writ says, But they who love Him are as the sun when he goes forth in his might, Judg. 5, 31. (Shabbat 88b, Gittin 36b). When you were concerned that a Chilul Hashem may be caused by people thinking that the fault was with you, you tried to explain yourself gently. The rule by which we should act is to be offended and not offend, and as you quoted from the end of the prayer "May my soul be silent to those who insult me". The surrounding people usually see who is the aggressor and who is the victim and such behavior makes a Kiddush Hashem (the sanctification of God's name). The exception to this is in a case of concern that perhaps one's behavior was not properly understood. Then he should try to explain himself politely and briefly without going into unnecessary conflicts and arguments.
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