One. In Judaism, that's a big number, The most important number, The numero uno number. One. It's what Gd is. One.
When there is only One, it's a little easier to use it as a reference point, right? Ell, not exactly-but more on that later.
One Gd. One standard by which to measure things. One set of weights.
It's a simple commandment, really. You should not keep two sets of measures, so that you can cheat people. Such dishonesty is an abomination before Gd.
Those poor folks at WorldCom and Enron. They obviously kept two sets of measures. One only they knew about, and one they shared with stockholders and the SEC.
The promise of D'vrarim 25:13-16 is that if we deal honestly, we will live long and prosper. We can infer the converse-if we deal dishonestly, we will not live long and prosper. The greedy folks of Enron and WorldCom are now seeing the truth of those words.
Dishonesty gets outed.
We all certainly learned that lesson at some point in our lives. Perhaps as a child, as we wove a web of untruths to cover up a faux pas, which, of course, ultimately came unraveled. Yet, like the stubborn, stiff-necked folks we are, we don't seem to all learn our lessons well.
And we all play the game of two sets of weight and measures, of dual standards. We've all heard the rationalizations for such things as rushing through a red light, for acquiring supplies from the office for home use, for not letting a cashier know when they undercharged us. Yet we are quick to castigate others for similar activities. We're using two different sets of values against which to measure things. It's no different than using two sets of weights as a merchant.
We've all heard the oft used (and hypocritical) insult some mythical ultra-orthodox businesspeople--how they will cheat a non-Jew and then say --it's OK, he was just a schwartze. For the record, it's an unfair characterization. Use of such a double standard is, sadly, as rampant, if not more so, among other sectors of the Jewish community, indeed, the world community, as it might be among these caricaturized mythical ultra-orthodox Jewish businesspeople. I've seen it with my own eyes.
Sadly, some use this parasha to justify this kind of double-standard affront to Gd, citing the law that forbids charging interest to a Jew but not to a non-Jew.
If we are to live up to the honor of being b'tzelem Elokim, then we must emulate the One-ness of Gd in many ways-including the use of only one set of weights and measures--in the use of one standard. After all, there is only one standard against which we shall be judged.
So, this Shabbat, think about the ways in your own life that you might, wittingly or unwittingly, be applying different measures - from something as simple as weighing yourself for your diet in different states of undress -- to justifications and rationalizations you might have used to try and apply two different sets of standards to your own actions somewhere. Gd expects not perfection in this regard, but expects we at least make the attempt. As Rabbi Tarfon said: lo alecha hamlacha ligmor, v'lo ata ben chorin l'hivatel mimena--it is not your obligation to complete the work, neither are your free to desist from it.
Before I wish you a Shabbat Shalom, an extra treat after my sign off-- my classic Ki Tetze musing from 1997-- The Torah, The Gold Watch, and Everything. It's become somewhat of a tradition to share it with you each year.
©2002 by Adrian A. Durlester
The musing I wrote in 1997 for parasha Ki Tetze has always been one of my favorites, and it has become somewhat of a tradition to share it with you each year at this time.
A reminder for context, that previously I worked as the production and venue manager for a performing arts facility, during the time when this musing was first written. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
There it sits. Each day, at some point, I open the pencil drawer in my desk at work, and laying among the hundreds of other miscellaneous items, it shines and stares at me. That gold ladies watch. It's been a month, I say. Six months. A year. Two years. Why not finally take it home.
I tried all the usual means to locate the owner, who lost it at a symphony concert in my venue almost two years ago. The usher who first found it and brought it to me in my office thought this find was important enough to bring to my attention right away. "It's a gold watch, after all." I asked "Have you ever not brought something you found to my attention right away?" "Oh yes" she said. "We find little unimportant things all the time. We just put them in our pockets and then leave them in the lost and found box." "So no one knows you put them there, except you?" I asked.
Never wasting a teachable moment, I hastened to tell the well meaning usher that we should treat every lost object as if it were priceless to its owner - whether it's a cracker-jack box ring, an umbrella, or a gold watch. And I've been teaching that to all the staff ever since.
But I digress. I called the symphony office, tried to find out who was sitting in seats in the area the watch was found. We called all those we could identify and none of them had lost it. We kept this up for several weeks. No one called to claim it. At other symphony concerts over the years I have asked people if they knew who might own this watch. We opened the watch and checked for serial numbers, engravings, etc. Still no luck.
And now it is two years later. All last week, I kept saying to myself, "Adrian, it's time. Just take it home, or donate it to a charity that could resell it (or use it.)"
Each day, I had the same conversation. Shabbat Shofetim came and went. Then it was time to read Ki Tetze. And there it was, 22:1-4. I had done the right thing. And I should keep doing it.
My life continue to be a series of the little epiphanies. It's a joy.
Well, wouldn't it be nice if I could say that this story has a perfect ending - and the owner of the watch finally was found and I returned it. No such luck.
I think it is finally time to take the watch to some charity that can use it. The watch has already served its purpose sitting in my drawer - that constant reminder to me of the ethic by which I, as a Jew, must live. And a reminder to teach those ethics to those who work with me. It's as though that little watch was a verse of Torah come to life. Now it's time to let it bring its magic to others. I only hope that it was to its original owner of as great a value as it has been to me, and will now be to others.
My your drawers contain that little piece of Torah as well.
©1997 by Adrian A. Durlester
© 2000 by Adrian A. Durlester
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