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The Rambam (Yisodei Hatorah 5:10-11) writes that there are two ways to commit a chilul Hashem: either to sin, or to behave in a (otherwise non-sinful) manner that people view negatively. However he limits the latter to "a man who is a great Torah scholar and renowned for his piety":

וְיֵשׁ דְּבָרִים אֲחֵרִים שֶׁהֵן בִּכְלַל חִלּוּל הַשֵּׁם. וְהוּא שֶׁיַּעֲשֶׂה אוֹתָם אָדָם גָּדוֹל בַּתּוֹרָה וּמְפֻרְסָם בַּחֲסִידוּת דְּבָרִים שֶׁהַבְּרִיּוֹת מְרַנְּנִים אַחֲרָיו בִּשְׁבִילָם. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינָן עֲבֵרוֹת הֲרֵי זֶה חִלֵּל אֶת הַשֵּׁם כְּגוֹן... אוֹ שֶׁדִּבּוּרוֹ עִם הַבְּרִיּוֹת אֵינוֹ בְּנַחַת וְאֵינוֹ מְקַבְּלָן בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת אֶלָּא בַּעַל קְטָטָה וְכַעַס. וְכַיּוֹצֵא בַּדְּבָרִים הָאֵלּוּ הַכּל לְפִי גָּדְלוֹ שֶׁל חָכָם צָרִיךְ שֶׁיְּדַקְדֵּק עַל עַצְמוֹ וְיַעֲשֶׂה לִפְנִים מִשּׁוּרַת הַדִּין

There are other things included in desecrating God's name: when a man who is a great Torah scholar and renowned for his piety will do things that will cause the public to complain about him, even though they are not transgressions, nevertheless he has desecrated God's name, for example...if his speech with his fellow men isn't polite, or if he does not receive them pleasantly, but is instead a man of anger and strife. In such matters, commensurate to the greatness of the scholar, he must take particular care and act better than the law requires.

Since most of us are not great scholars renowned for our piety (at least I speak for myself), it would seem that our bad (non-sinful) behavior cannot constitute a chilul Hashem.

Does anyone know of a halachic work that disagrees with the Rambam and justifies the widespread perception that a regular person's bad non-sinful behavior can indeed be a chilul Hashem?

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    The Rambam himself says "הכל לפי גדלו" You may not be the Gadol HaDor, but if you are wearing a Kippah that's something. – Double AA Aug 2 '16 at 21:03
  • @DoubleAA - Thanks for responding so quickly. You left out 2 important words: "shel chacham". In other words, once you reach the threshold of "great Torah scholar.....", then it depends on how great you are. – Jay Aug 2 '16 at 21:10
  • You can assert the rambam states a minimum explicitly all you want but I doubt you'll find many who believe you. I don't. I explained above the correct way to read the rambam. You need to separate what he says and what you are reading in to him. – Double AA Aug 2 '16 at 22:16
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    See Sefer HaHinukh. – mevaqesh Oct 14 '16 at 13:21
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/66547/… – SAH Jan 12 '17 at 23:05
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Here is a Gemara.

Masechet Yoma 86a:

כדתניא (דברים ו, ה) ואהבת את ה' אלהיך שיהא שם שמים מתאהב על ידך שיהא קורא ושונה ומשמש ת"ח ויהא משאו ומתנו בנחת עם הבריות מה הבריות אומרות עליו אשרי אביו שלמדו תורה אשרי רבו שלמדו תורה אוי להם לבריות שלא למדו תורה פלוני שלמדו תורה ראו כמה נאים דרכיו כמה מתוקנים מעשיו עליו הכתוב אומר (ישעיהו מט, ג) ויאמר לי עבדי אתה ישראל אשר בך אתפאר אבל מי שקורא ושונה ומשמש ת"ח ואין משאו ומתנו באמונה ואין דבורו בנחת עם הבריות מה הבריות אומרות עליו אוי לו לפלוני שלמד תורה אוי לו לאביו שלמדו תורה אוי לו לרבו שלמדו תורה פלוני שלמד תורה ראו כמה מקולקלין מעשיו וכמה מכוערין דרכיו ועליו הכתוב אומר (יחזקאל לו, כ) באמור להם עם ה' אלה ומארצו יצאו ‏

if someone studies Scripture and Mishnah, and attends on the disciples of the wise, is honest in business, and speaks pleasantly to persons, what do people then say concerning him? 'Happy the father who taught him Torah, happy the teacher who taught him Torah; woe unto people who have not studied the Torah; for this man has studied the Torah look how fine his ways are, how righteous his deeds!. Of him does Scripture say: And He said unto me: Thou art My servant, Israel, in, whom I will be glorified. But if someone studies Scripture and Mishnah, attends on the disciples of the wise, but is dishonest in business, and discourteous in his relations with people, what do people say about him? ' Woe unto him who studied the Torah, woe unto his father who taught him Torah; woe unto his teacher who taught him Torah!' This man studied the Torah: Look, how corrupt are his deeds, how ugly his ways; of him Scripture says: In that men said of them,: These are the people of the Lord, and are gone forth out of His land.

It seems very similar to Chilul Hashem. Some of the bad behaviors cited are not really pointing to sin, but to bad customs. The man pointed is a man that people see as a scholar. We can understand from the style of this text that nowadays, a Yeshiva Bochur or almost a man considered as a rabbi, or as an active member of a Beth Hamidrash falls in this category, for him people will say "This man studied Torah, look how corrupt..." This is exactly the words of Rambam. There is no "objective" threshold.

  • Thank you for answering. The Kesef Mishna cites the Gemara you quoted as one of the sources of the Rambam's ruling. If so, it would seem that the Rambam understood this Gemara as well as referring only to a great scholar of exceptional piety, not anyone in Yeshiva. (Rashi also seems to understand the Gemara as referring to an "Adam Chashuv"/distinguished individual) – Jay Aug 7 '16 at 18:05
  • @Jay .... nu nu... – kouty Aug 7 '16 at 18:13
  • Being dishonest in business is obviously an actual sin, and a very serious one at that (D'varim 25:16). Not speaking pleasantly, however, is more of a gray area (particularly if the person's discourtesy is mild enough that it might not meet the threshold of technically violating the sin of ona'as d'varim), so maybe that could support your point. – Fred Aug 15 '16 at 18:29
  • @Jay this Rashi? באמור להם עם ה' אלה. את זו קרא הכתוב חילול השם כשאדם חשוב עובר עבירה ופורענות באה עליו והכל אומרים מה הועילו לו ראה החסידים והחכמים רעה באה עליהם שנאמר ויחללו את שם קדשי ובמה חללוהו באמור עליהם הנכרים שגלו ביניהן ראו עם ה' אלה ולא יכול להצילם שלא יגלו נמצא שם שמים מתחלל וכבודו מתמעט: – kouty Dec 13 '16 at 21:09
  • @Jay if it is this Rashi, he says that people don't know that the TC made averot, and when he is punished, they say that Tora & maassim tovim are not help him. If people know that he was a poshea, they would not have any problem with the punishment. – kouty Dec 13 '16 at 21:21
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It seems that according to Rabbi Dessler, yes, every person causes 'chilul' based on his own level.

Here's my translation from Michtov Me'Eliyahu 4 pg 88:

The Rishonim wrote that sin is a disease of the soul. 'Once someone sins and repeats, it becomes to him as if it is allowed', (Kidushin 40a). That is, it is a permanent sickness, and that is certainly 'chilul'. As for desire, 'Once one is attached to it very much so, it is akin to heresy' and it is impossible to honestly detach from it unless one dies doing Teshuva, (Avoda Zara 17a). That is, the sickness is so attached to him that he cannot detach from it, and the cure is so harsh that it kills him. Every person must recognize the 'chilul' according to his level, as they said 'what is chilul Hashem...Rabi Yochanan...like myself if I walk four cubits without Torah and without Tephilin. See there in the Gemara that this is a chilul Hashem that is only forgiven with death. We must know that all sicknesses such as the light treatment of prayers, mussar, bittul torah and the like, that is chlilul.

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    Thank you for answering. I am aware that there are mussar sources which could be understood as differing with the Rambam's ruling (and also with Rashi's understanding of the Gemara) to some extent. However, we typically don't use such sources to determine halacha, especially when they are at odds with a halachic work such as Mishna Torah. That is why I was careful in my wording of the question - "halachic work" in bold! – Jay Aug 15 '16 at 16:54
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    Additionally, it is not entirely clear to me that Rabbi Dessler is using the term 'chilul' in the halachic/transgression sense. He seems to be using it in more of a 'mussar/machshava' sense of spiritual sickness, especially as he implies that ANY laxity in one's avodas Hashem would constitute a 'chilul'. Even if he does mean it in the halachic sense, he doesn't seem to be discussing the type of chilul that is created solely by the negative perception of others, which is the type I'm inquiring about. – Jay Aug 15 '16 at 16:55
  • I saw the bold type but figured Michtov Me'Eliyahu is as 'halachik' as the Yisodei Hatorah section of Rambam. Also his referencing the gemara with Rabi Yochanan seems to point to this being the regular old chilul Hashem we always talk about. But I did have that same thought when I read it. – user6591 Aug 15 '16 at 17:11
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    Regarding your first point - while that section of M.T. is not all halachic, much of it clearly is - in fact in that very chapter he discusses halachic matters of life and death! Regarding your second point, not everyone understands that Gemara the same way - Rashi, for instance, understands it to be about doing things which seem like aveiros which people will learn from and mistakenly emulate. I don't see any indication that Rabbi Dessler understands it to mean halachically innocent behavior that people just find distasteful, which is what we're discussing here. – Jay Aug 15 '16 at 18:07
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    You can hardly call what Rambam explicitly calls a Halakhic work, to be as Halakhic as what Rav Dessler calls a Mussar work. The fact that some topics are borrowed and expanded upon in contemporary Mussar literature doesn't lessen their Halakhic significance. Would be like suggesting that Choshen Mishpat is really Mussar since Artscroll has published children's books on caring about people's money. – Chaim Nov 13 '16 at 13:58

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