“And I will be sanctified amongst the children of Yisrael!” (Vayikra 22:32)
It is a positive commandment that we must sanctify the Name of Hasme, as it says “And I will be sanctified amongst the children of Yisrael!”, which means to say that we must give our lives away to die in order to fulfil the commandments of our religion. Chazal explained that the commandment to give our lives away to sanctify Hashem’s Name was said about specific commandments and about specific times. There are three commandments about which we have always been commanded that we must give away our lives. These are idol worship, forbidden relationships and murder. If a person says to him, “Serve this idol or I will kill you!”, he should be killed rather than serving the idol. Even if his heart is full of complete faith in Hashem, he is nevertheless commanded to give his life away rather than doing this evil deed, so that he allows no place for others to think that he denies Hashem.
In other sins, however, the general rule is that one should transgress rather than be killed. There is however, one time when one must give one’s life away even for other commandments. This is at a time of religious persecution, when the gentiles are trying to persuade the Jews to move away from their religion. At such a time, one is obligated to give away one’s life even for the smallest commandment and even in private. This is true even if in the particular instance, the gentile is not intending to persuade him to leave his religion, and is just doing it for his own private benefit. If a gentile publicly (i.e. in front of at least ten Jews) tries to move a Jew away from his religion, even if it is not a time of general religious persecution, he must be killed rather than transgressing the sin.
This obligation of giving away one’s life rather than murdering someone else is not extrapolated from this verse. Chazal derived it from a logical argument, and they said, “How do you know that your blood is redder than his?”. It follows that even if there are thousands of Jews in a town and they are told that they have to give one Jew to be killed and that if they do not hand over one Jew, all the Jews will be killed, that they should all be killed rather than hand one Jewish life to be killed.
The root of this commandment is well-known, for a person is only created to serve his Creator, and one who is not willing to put his life in danger for the service of his master is not a good servant, and this is even more true for the commandments of the King of all Kings.
This commandment applies in all places and at all times, to both men and women. One who does not sanctify the Name of Hashem when he is obligated to, has transgressed this positive commandment, besides for transgressing the negative commandment of “And you should not profane My Holy Name!”.