Jewish Legacy Week: Shabbat

May 20, 2016

We are all familiar with the concepts – contained in verse 22:32 of this week’s parsha – of Kiddush Hashem and Chilul Hashem – sanctifying and desecrating Hashem’s name. Historically, many of our forebears, forced to choose between conversion and martyrdom chose the latter – the ultimate act of Kiddush Hashem, but one that came about through coercion.

Today, for the most part, our means of performing this Torah given precept are more positive and purposeful. They come about not through coercion but through voluntary acts, by living proactive, positive Jewish lives. We wear the badge and bear the mantle of Judaism, as so become public ambassadors for the ‘club’, our actions judged according to the highest of standards. When other people see a Jew behaving badly, we are all tarred with the same brush. Conversely when others identify Jews behaving honestly and uprightly that gives them individually, and Judaism collectively, a good reputation. How we act can bring fame – or infamy – upon us all.

One area in which we as Jews are renowned, and held up as paragons in wider society, is in our charitable giving. Recent research by JPR* shows that 93% of Jews give annually to charity compared to 57% of the population as a whole. However, this generosity is not carried through into legacy giving. This Shabbat has been designated Legacy Shabbat when Jewish Legacy Giving – a consortium of 45 Jewish charities – seeks to increase awareness of the importance of legacies to the Jewish Third Sector and encourage more of us to include legacy gifts to our favourite charities.

May this Shabbat of Emor, coinciding with Legacy Shabbat, enable us to extend that generosity of spirit even further and find a new way of performing the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem.

Harvey Bratt

Trustee of Jewish Charity Giving and UJIA Director of Legacies and Planned Giving

*Institute of Jewish Policy Research

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