Life Lessons from the Torah Portion: Shoftim

Shoftim Deuteronomy 16:18–21:9

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Moshe Kempinski,

Moshe Kempinski
Moshe Kempinski
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Words can be so damaging when their intent is misunderstood . That phenomenon becomes more pronounced with classical translations which generally are more "commentary" than truly being a translation.

Such is the case with a verse in the Torah portion of Shoftim

."You shall be TAMIM with Hashem your G-d.( Deuteronomy 18:13). That verse is classically translated as ."You shalt be perfect( TAMIM) with Hashem your G-d"

This understanding of the word  is in keeping with other imperfect translations;
 

These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect (TAMIM)in his generations, and Noah walked with G-d.(Genesis 6:9)
 

And again;

 

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, Hashem appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty G-d; walk before me, and be you perfect( TAMIM ).(Genesis 17:1)
 


Rashi in our Torah portion explains the Hebrew word TAMIM not as perfect but rather as "Wholehearted" . The difference is theologically impactful.
 

"Be wholehearted with Hashem, your G-d: Conduct yourself with Him with simplicity and depend on Him, and do not inquire of the future; rather, accept whatever happens to you with [unadulterated] simplicity and then, you will be with Him and to His portion. — [Sifrei]
 

G-d is in hiding and waiting for us to look for Him

“And I will surely hide My face in that day” ( Deuteronomy 31:8).
 

His purpose is clear. He is hiding so that we yearn to find Him. This Divine “hiding” is more than a response to man’s actions in this world but is a critical and vital step in the plan for the fashioning of mankind’s purpose.

When Moshe Asks Hashem if the people ask who sent him, what name should he reveal to them?

"Say to the Israelites, 'Hashem, the God of your fathers--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob--has sent me to you.' "This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.( Exodus 3:15)

  

The word" forever" in the phrase  ""This is my name forever" is spelled LeAlem wiyout a vav rather than leOlam that truly denotes "forever"

Rashi there explains the following;

This is My name forever: is spelled wiyout (the Hebrew letter) vav, which then carries the meaning ”hidden”.Rashi concludes that this is meant to teach us “to conceal it [God’s name] so that it should not be read as it is written(from Pesachim. 50a).

Yet it is not simply  an issue of ritual. Reading the name differently than the way it was written ( out of trembling and awe) implies much more. Names in the Bible are description of innate attributes, Essentially Hashem is saying that there are aspects of His relationship with His creation would purposefully hidden from plain sight.

The Hiddenness of the Divine is created so that we are moved to search for that Divinity.


Mankind’s purpose is to rectify the failures of Garden of Eden so that we can return to its sublime peace of mind.
Hiding leads to yearning, yearning leads to growth

Now we can understand the context of the word Tamim as it is found the Torah portion of Shoftim;

There shall not be found among you anyone who passes his son or daughter through fire, a soothsayer, a diviner of [auspicious] times, one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer,11or a charmer, a pithom sorcerer, a yido'a sorcerer, or a necromancer.12For whoever does these things is an abomination to Hashem, and because of these abominations, Hashem, your God is driving them out from before you. 13Be wholehearted ( TAMIM) with Hashem, your God.( Deuteronomy 18:10-13)

 

Mortal men and women are plagued with the need to know what to expect next . The precariousness of life and mystery lurking around the corner of time can be crippling. As a result that “passion to know “has led many into dangerous territory. Adam and Eve rebelled against the only Authority they knew, in order to satisfy their need to know.

" And the serpent said to the woman, "You will surely not die. For God knows that on the day that you eat thereof, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like angels, knowing good and evil."( Genesis 3:4-5)

 

Mankind’s purpose is to rectify the failures of Garden of Eden so that we can return to its sublime peace of mind.

 The solution lies in the words” Be wholehearted ( TAMIM) with Hashem, your God.( Deuteronomy 18:13)

 

 One does not need to go to witches , fortune tellers or the zodiac “signs in the sky”. One simply needs to Be Tamim with the Creator.

Most commentators echo Rashi in their understanding that Being Tamim is being in a state of mind wherein one’s trust in   G-d’s purpose is pure and wholehearted. That concept is echoed in Rabbi Akiva’s famous Aramaic saying "Kol man d'avid Rachmana l'tav avid," which translates as : "All that the Merciful One does, He does for good."
 

Yet that awareness can become very difficult to achieve in a turbulent world. I heard from Jerusalem Psychologist Dr. Avi Horowitz the following deep insight into that dilemma.

Quoting the Ibn Ezra he described how young children initially have great difficulty listening to a “no” given by their parents. Children “want”  and have difficulty having that “want” differed. Yet, as they mature and experience time and again the love, concern and wisdom by their parents, they begin to trust and depend on that guidance and structure.

So it is with Avinu SheBaShamayim-our Father in Heaven. If we simply learn to look around us and re-experience that countless blessings and miracles in our day to day lives ,we would develop the spiritual maturity to truly trust Divine purpose . This would be so even yough at times we are mired in pain or in confusion.

'I am G-d Almighty; walk before Me, and be you wholehearted- Tamim ( Genesis 17:1)

LeRefuat Yehudut Bat Golda Yocheved and Yehudit Bat Chaya Esther