Nobody is expected to be perfect, but everyone is expected to be honest.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Ki Tavo” (Deuteronomy 26:1–29:8), and in it we read about the “curses” and the “blessings.” Blessings for those who keep the Torah and observe it’s commandments and, sadly, curses for those who don’t.
This Blessing-and-Curse ceremony took place in northern Samaria, just outside the city of Shechem (Nablus) in the valley between Mount Gerizim and Mount Eval. The Jewish people were divided into two camps: six tribes stood on one mountain and six on the other. A series of blessings and curses were recited, to which everyone was required to respond Amen.
Eleven transgressions were singled out for curse: worshipping (even just manufacturing, in fact) a graven image; disrespecting one’s father or mother; stealing land; causing a blind person to stumble; cheating a convert, orphan or widow; immorality with one’s stepmother; immorality with an animal; immorality with a sister; immorality with one’s mother in law; damaging someone secretly; and taking bribes.
The question is asked: Why were these 11 transgressions singled out for curse? There are certainly far worse sins in the Torah worthy of curse, such as murder, and possibly even eating bread on Passover and violating the Sabbath. Indeed, the punishment for eating on Yom Kippur and the sin for eating bread on Passover are far worse that the punishment for a land grab. What’s going on over here? Why these 11?
It is explained that these 11 transgressions are all sins that are done in private. They are sins that are committed when nobody is looking, and in some cases, no one will ever know that the sins were ever committed. They are simple land grabs by building your fence a few inches over your property line, and fudging costs and charges on vulnerable customers. Sins that one can often get away with.
This is why these sins are worthy of curse more than other transgressions that carry even heavier punishments. The sins done in secret are often worse than the sins done in public. Why? Because it allows people to be fakers. To be pious in public and sinful in private. That, in Judaism at least, is tragic. A person needs to be real and true. A person must be the same on the inside as he is on the outside, the same in public and in private. Nobody is expected to be perfect, but everyone is expected to be honest. Hypocrisy is a horrible character trait.
Whatever your level of observance and piety – be honest with yourself and others. Don’t try to sell yourself as being on one level of piety while in private you are on quite another. “What you see is what you get” is an important motto to live by!
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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