Being straight and upright

Torah Portion of Re’eh. Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17

Moshe Kempinski,

 (Leilui Nishmat Yehudit bat Chaya Esther

 in memory of Joyce Green Z’L)

At the end of a Torah portion describing the choices that Hashem has placed before us” “Re’eh – See, I give you today a blessing and a curse (Deuteronomy11:26). 

He ends the portion with the following words;

Keep and hearken to all these words that I command you, that it may benefit you and your children after you, forever, when you do what is good and proper( HaTov VeHaYashar) in the eyes of Hashem, your G-d. (Deuteronomy 12:28).

What do those words” do what is good and proper( HaTov VeHaYashar) “imply?

We see the use of the word Yashar throughout Tanach;

“If you obey G-d, and do what is upright in His eyes (veHaYashar beinav taaseh], and listen to all of His mitzvot and keep all of His decrees…” (Exodus 15:26).

“For you shall hearken to the voice of Hashem your G-d, to keep all His commandments which I command you this day to do that which is proper (Yashar) in the eyes of Hashem, your G-d.” (Deuteronomy 13:19).

The classic commentators Rashi and the Ramban explain that  the term Yashar denotes behavior that is lifnim mishurat hadin, that is to say “above the letter of the law”. This implies an acting in a manner which is not necessarily prescribed in the written text of G-d’s word, but should be a corollary or outgrowth of walking within those written statutes.

Yet interestingly, the term lifnim mishurat hadin, literally translates as “ within the letters of the law”. This seems to imply that it relates to behavior that is at the core of G-d’s commandments and His Torah. That is to say that this attribute of Yashar is not just an admirable trait but may actually be the essence of Hashem’s purpose with His Torah.

In the instructions regarding writing a Kosher Torah scroll , we learn  that every letter in a Torah scroll must be completely surrounded by the blank parchment (Menachot 29a) .

This is not simply a description of how to write a Torah scroll but rather a spiritual hint of a deeper truth.

We are told that the words of the Torah were given in fire “from His right a fiery law to them” (Deut. 33:2).

Our sages describe it actually as being created with “ black fire” being written on “white fire”. The Black Fire is the letters of Hashem’s word. The White Fire is what surrounds each of those letters. The Black Fire describes the clearly delineated text and its simple revealed meaning. The White Fire, on the other hand, represents the more sublime “hidden truths”.

What is that hidden truth

The deeds of the [Mighty] Rock are perfect, for all His ways are just; a faithful G-d, without injustice He is righteous and upright ( VeYashar).( Deuteronomy 42:4).

Just as he is Yashar so must we be.

The implications are dramatic. Becoming upright (Yashar) and holy is not a simple act of self-improvement or edification. Walking a life of “doing beyond what is prescribed” for the sake of the world and for all of Hashem’s creations is the core of our ultimate purpose.

 Doing so, we have the opportunity to represent G-d in this world. What else is there? LeRefuat Yehudit Bat Golda Yocheved

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