By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
“I’m gonna dance with men and women together. Why mourn? Why suffer? Start dreaming and laughing. Feel, dance and enjoy. You only live once. I’m gonna laugh, I’m gonna dance. Live my life, la, la, la, la.”
Spanish speaking housekeepers across the New York Metropolitan Area and beyond are shocked that religious Jews appear to be singing and playing this song. And it is not just the housekeepers. Waiters and waitresses at Jewish weddings at almost every venue believe it as well.
“Wow!” they must think. “The philosophy of our Latin Grammy winner Marc Anthony has even permeated the Orthodox Jewish world. Salsa music and its lyrics are alive and well – even in the Torah world! Who would have thought?”
They are wrong, of course.
“Hashem Melech, Hashem Malach” uses the same music as Marc Anthony’s “Vivir mi Vida,” but it’s words are very different. Our Hebrew words declare Hashem’s sovereignty over the world.
Ahallel Hashem Elokim, vaAgadleno betodah … yud vekay, vevov vekay
Hashem Elokainu, Hashem Echad … yud vekay, vevov vekay
Hashem Elokainu, Hashem Echad
Hashem melech; Hashem malach; Hashem yimloch leolam va-ed
This song has nothing to do with mixed dancing and “only living once.” It is a declaration in Hebrew of our dedication to the Creator.
But that’s the point. Many native Spanish speakers do not understand Hebrew.
Out of the seven Spanish speakers surveyed for this article, all seven believed that the Hebrew words to “Hashem Melech/Hashem Malach” conveyed the idea of going out to raves and dancing and partying all night because you only live once. [By the way, the Mishna in Sanhedrin 10:1 quotes Yishayahu 60 that all of Klal Yisroel has a chailek l’olam Haba, so we actually live twice.]
Which brings us to the topic of this article. Is there a concept of Chilul Hashem to goyim?
To Take Mitzvos Lightly
On the one hand, there is a Rashi in Yuma 86a which states that the essence of Chilul Hashem is when people learn to be mezalzel in mitzvos – to take Hashem’s mitzvos lightly. This indicates that the essential Chillul Hashem is to other Jews, since gentiles are not commanded in mitzvos other than the seven Noachide laws.
There is another factor too, even according to this explanation of Rashi. Like it or not, we are all affected by the perceptions of others. If Torah has a “chen” in the gentile world, many members of Klal Yisroel are more motivated in their Avodas Hashem. It is a psychological reality.
The opposite is also true. If goyim look askance at Judaism, it causes other Jews to be mezalzel in mitzvos.
Perhaps this is the understanding in the Tosefta in Bava Kama (10:15) which states that on account of Chillul Hashem, gezel hagoy is far worse than gezel yisroel, according to Rashi.
The Gemorah in Gittin 46a clearly shows that we should change the manner in which we behave and do things in order to avoid a Chillul Hashem in the eyes of goyim. Explanations of what is happening made to the gentile do help, however. We see this from Rav Yochanan and the Matranusa in Yuma 84a. But explanations are only effective for individuals to counter a Chillul Hashem, not for an entire Tzibbur. That is perhaps demonstrated in the Gemorah in Gittin 46a (See explanation of Toras HaAgaddah, by Rav Efraim Oved, Gittin p. 41) as to the difference between the case in Yuma and the case in Gittin. Thus, we see a fundamental principle in Chillul Hashem. Regarding public issues, explanations may not help.
In the household, it might be sufficient to explain to one’s Spanish housekeeper the real meaning of the song. In a wedding hall, however, it is more complex, because it is public. Not everyone would hear the explanation. What could be done is someone could additionally sing the true English lyrics to the same tune of Hashem Melech so all who are listening in will realize what the lyrics mean. The following English version could be used:
I will praise Hashem the L-rd
And acclaim Him with thanks
He is Good! He’s One! He’s great
Hashem is One
Hashem is king
Always will be.
Forever and on …
Every one, of course, should check with their own Rav or Posaik regarding this issue.
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