Our Essence

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By Rabbi Naftoly Bier

This Shabbos we once again relive the momentous occurrence of the deliverance of Klal Yisroel at the Reed Sea! The Egyptians, nine million of them, drowned while the Jewish people were saved. As this portion is read in the synagogue, all attendees stand, as if we are once again witnessing this miracle.

The פסוק , verse, reads, “ ויראו העם את ה‘ ויאמינו בה‘ ובמשה עבדו ”. “The people were in awe of Hashem, and (as a cause) they came to connect to (to believe in) Hashem and Moshe, His Subject.”

Medrash Rabbah 22:5, explains that in order for one to truly connect to Hashem, to realistically have a relationship with Him, necessitates the prerequisite that one is completely honest. ויראו means that any form of questionable possessions were returned and all non-truthful thoughts or manner of speech were eliminated from one’s behavior. In turn they were able to develop a true and real connection; to merit and feel the presence of Hashem in their life. If one in any form is dishonest in their financial dealings, one can call (pray) to Hashem and they won’t be answered, for their prayer is sullied with their personality that lacks integrity, and it’s incongruous to connect with Hashem who is כולו אמת, חתימתו של הקדוש ברוך הוא אמת – the essence of truth.

The same idea of the fundamental importance of honesty forming the foundation of all of spiritual life is taught after the liberation of the Jewish people.

In פרק ט“ו: כו , chapter 5:26, it states, “If you harken diligently to the voice of Hashem, your G-d, and do what is just in His eyes (הישר בעיניו תעשה), listen to His commandments and observe all of His decrees, then all of the diseases I placed in Egypt I will not bring upon you…”

The רמב“ן , Nachmanides, quotes the ,מכילתא Mechilta, that asks if the Torah enumerates commandments which are the positive commandments (מצות עשה) and the rules which prohibit actions (לא תעשה), what is being taught in by the third category, “to what is just”?

The Mechilta answers, “To teach us that whoever conducts themselves with integrity in all of their dealings, and people are touched by one’s positive and noble character, it is considered as if one has observed the whole Torah.”

There are two fundamental foundations that are the core of all of Torah; these two: if they are immutable in their essence it will invariably lead one to correctly, enthusiastically and selflessly to observe all of the mitzvos. One common theme to these two ideas is the acute, relentless, logical dedication to Hashem’s world; integrity and embracing others, a manifestation of sublime character.

When one has truly developed this, then one is metaphysically connected to Hashem, for when one emulates Hashem who is by definition perfect in His integrity, and emulates Hashem who is caring, selfless, loving, embracing, etc., then Hashem reciprocates, inculcates and edifies the person with true spirituality. “זה קלי ואנוהו” “This is my G-d and I will glorify Him”; when one gives honor, reverence, admiration, and appreciation to Him, one becomes part and parcel of His world; Hashem constantly elevating one with enabling one to transcend more and more the physical identity and embrace the spiritual essence of the human.

It’s the foundation that counts, it’s the fundamentals of life that proceed the Torah, that enable Torah to impact a person. Otherwise, without possessing honesty and fine character, life is contradictory.

This idea is expressed in פרקי אבות ג’:י’, Ethics of our Fathers, 3:10, where it states: “כל שנוח הבריאות נוחה הימנו”, “One with whom people are pleased with, Hashem is pleased with”, But anyone from whom people are displeased, Hashem is displeased. Rashi explains that this refers to a person whose fine character is pleasing to all. Rabeinu Yonah teaches it is relating to one who interacts with others with integrity.

Again, we learn of the grave importance of positive interaction both personally and honestly with all. As the גמרה יומא כ”ו states “כל תלמיד שקורא ושונה ונושא ונותן באמונה עם הבריות, מה הבריות אומרות עליו? אשרי אביו שלמדו תורה”, “Any disciple who studies Torah and deal with honesty in all their dealings, what do people say? Praiseworthy is that father who taught him Torah” – for otherwise the Torah he has learned is not real!

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