Rav Avigdor Miller on Kiddush Hashem for a Penny
The Rambam says that one of the aspects of kiddush Hashem is that a person should behave in such a way that people will say, “Look at that man! He learns Torah and look how well behaved he is.” So my question is, should he be doing it with that intention, in order that people should praise him?
Yes. He should do it in order that people should praise frum Jews. A frum Jew, a black-hatted Jew, should make it his ideal to behave in such a way so that people will say good things about frum Jews. Here’s a black man from UPS and has to deliver a big heavy package. He has to open the door but he only has two hands – he can’t reach the doorknob. Now, you’re going by, and you’re a black-hatted man with a beard. So what do you do? You open the door for the black man, and he says, “Thank you.” It’s a kiddush Hashem. The black man sees that a rabbi with a beard is a mentsch. It’s a kiddush Hashem; you’re raising the honor of Hashem in the world. It’s not your honor you care about – it’s the honor of the one you represent, Hakodosh Boruch Hu.
And don’t think it’s a small thing. Whatever you can do to make people praise you as a frum Jew, you should do that. Once you put on a black hat, you’re responsible to make a good impression on the world. Go out of your way. I was once standing on the street corner, and a college boy threw something on the sidewalk so I bent over, picked it up and put it in the wastebasket. A man standing nearby said to me, “Thank you.” He thanked me for picking it up from the street and putting it in the garbage can! Do things so that people should appreciate the frum Jews. Go out of your way to show people that a frum Jew is polite; that he’s kindhearted and decent.
You’re walking in the street, and a faker has a tin can; he’s crying, “I want charity from you.” He’s a loafer and he wants your money. So pick out a penny from your pocket – he shouldn’t see it’s a penny – and knock it into his can with a loud noise. When you walk by, all the spectators will say, “Ooh, look at that – the rabbi is giving tzedakah!” It’s a kiddush Hashem. But don’t put in two pennies; it’s a waste of money!