Ki Sitzei 3

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


From Trust to Honesty

Parshas Ki Sitzei

Contact Rabbi Spero at 862-9546 or

In this week’s portion, the commandment to be honest in our business dealings is mentioned: “A perfect and honest weight shall you have, a perfect and honest measure shall you have, so that your days shall be lengthened on the land that G-d gives you. For an abomination of G-d are all who do this who act corruptly” (Deut. 25:15-16).

Abomination, to’eva, is a very strong term. This is a term normally used to define someone who has gone against nature, for example, witchcraft or homosexuality. Why is it used here, regarding our business scruples?

We can understand this passage if we take note of the passage immediately following this one: “Remember what Amalek did to you, on the way when you were leaving Egypt. That he happened upon you on the way, and he struck those of you in the back…you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek, you shall not forget” (Deut 25:17-19).

What is the reason these two passages are juxtaposed?

Why is there a commandment to completely wipe out Amalek? It is because of the defining belief of the Amalekites. After the Jewish people had left Egypt, no nation in the world was willing to start up with them. It had become known to the other nations that G-d was protecting the Jewish people. The plagues that had been visited upon the Egyptian people had become known, as had the splitting of the sea, and subsequent drowning of the Egyptians. The other nations were scared and rightfully so - every nation, that is, except for Amalek.  Amalek believed that what had happened to the Jewish people amounted to little more than good luck. The verse states “that he (Amalek) happened upon you (the Israelites) on the way.” The word in Hebrew for happened is “mikreh”, which also denotes happenstance or randomness. Amalek happened upon the Jewish people because Amalek believed in randomness. They refused to see G-d’s hands in the world. This is why they must be obliterated from the face of the earth. Amalek stands in complete opposition to everything that the Jew believes.

Though we surely do not know why G-d runs the world as He does, we know that everything happens for a reason. The Talmud relates to us (Tractate Brochos 6a) that when Moshe asked G-d to reveal to him His ways, that Moshe wanted to understand why bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.

Even someone as great as Moshe had difficulty understanding the way of G-d. And that is perfectly okay. We have a relationship with G-d, and part of a relationship means trust. G-d has certainly “proven” Himself to us. All one needs to do is see the pattern of world history to know that G-d is constantly guiding us.

This is an essential part of the beauty and paradox of our relationship with G-d.  In the words of the great 13th century Spanish philosopher Rabbi Yehuda Ibn Tibon, “If I knew G-d (in totality), I would be Him.”

This same rule rings true regarding our livelihood. A person who cheats in business has committed a great abomination, because his cheating means that he does not believe that G-d will provide for him. And that is going against nature.

May we merit to see the hand of G-d both in our personal life and as He guides the Jewish people.

Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.

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