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Ki Seitzei: Complete Honesty

לא יהי' לך בכיסך אבן ואבן גדולה וקטנה. לא יהיה לך בביתך איפה ואיפה גדולה וקטנה. אבן שלמה וצדק יהיה לך איפה שלמה וצדק יהיה לך למען יאריכו ימיך על האדמה אשר ה' אלקיך נותן לך.

“You shall not have in your pocket two weights, a big one and a small one. You shall not have in your house two measures, a big one and a small one. You shall have a complete and honest weight and a complete and honest measure so that you shall merit long days in the Land that Hashem your G-d is giving you.” (Devarim 25:13-15)

The Torah forbids a person from being deceitful when doing business by having two different weights, a small one when measuring produce and a larger one when charging the customer for the same produce. The Torah commands us to be perfectly honest in all of our business dealings.

There is a story about the Nasoder Rav, whose yartzeit is on 11 Elul, which shows how careful tzaddikim are with money matters. The Nasoder Rav stayed at an inn one Shabbos. The innkeeper prepared a nice Shabbos meal, and placed a beautiful silver Kiddush cup on the table for the Rav. As the Rav was about to make Kiddush, he started pacing the room as if looking for something. Finally, he asked the innkeeper if he has a different Kiddush cup that he can use. The innkeeper replied that all he has is a small, dented kiddush cup. To his surprise, the Rav asked for the cup and then promptly made Kiddush with it. Nobody understood why the Rav chose the dented cup over the beautiful silver one.

During the meal, the Nasoder Rav told a story about the Sanzer Rav zt”l. “Every Friday Night during the meal, the Sanzer Rav would eat some carrot tzimmes and farfel. Once during the meal, a plate full of carrot tzimmes was brought in for the Rebbe but he didn’t touch it. The Chassidim wondered why the Rav didn’t want to eat the tzimmes, so they did some questioning in the kitchen, until they learned the story behind the carrots that were used for the tzimmes. That week, the person who did the shopping forgot to buy carrots. When the maid wanted to prepare the tzimmes, she saw that the neighbors had some carrots in their garden. When no one was looking, the maid pulled a few carrots from the garden and used it for the tzimmes. When the Rebbe was served this dish, he immediately sensed that it was prepared from stolen produce and he refused to eat it.”

After hearing this story, those present understood this as a hint that the Nasoder Rav didn’t want to use the silver Kiddush cup for similar reasons, but no one understood exactly how the story applies to the present situation. After Shabbos, a Jew stopped by at the inn and upon seeing the silver Kiddush cup he asked the innkeeper where he got it from. The innkeeper told him that he found it for a very good price at a certain shop in town. It turned out that the cup was stolen from this newly arrived guest some time before. Apparently, the thieves sold it to the person who later sold it to the innkeeper at a good price. Now everyone understood why the Nasoder Rav refused to use the Kiddush cup.

We see from this story that tzaddikim who work on themselves to be perfectly honest in all of their dealings cannot tolerate the slightest bit of falsehood and dishonesty. This message can be seen in the verse, by interpreting the words to mean: “Those who are complete” – they have reached shleimus in all of their actions and are wholesome in their deeds, “have an honest measure” – they cannot tolerate any falsehood or dishonesty.

The verses above can also be interpreted to teach us something very important. The word eifah – measure, can also mean “where is it?” Sometimes a person sits down to learn, but the yetzer hara finds many different ways to make him uncomfortable, so that he should take that as an excuse to give up his learning. If the air-conditioning doesn’t work, the person may think it is too hot to learn. If he has a hard time finding or adjusting to a study partner, he may say that it is impossible to learn this way. Or he may say that he doesn’t have the right sefarim at home to learn there, and so on and so forth, with various excuses. We should remember that long ago people learned day and night, although they had no heating or air-conditioning, or even proper lighting. They had very few sefarim and had to share Gemaros with one another. Still, they didn’t look for excuses.

This is what the Torah is telling us: “You shall not have in your house excuses of ‘where is this’ or ‘where is that’ – a big one and a small one.” The yetzer hara starts with a big issue such as a severe discomfort, but if you listen to him he will end up taking you away from learning even due to small and insignificant issues. Even the slightest thing out of the ordinary will make it extremely difficult for you to learn.

The same is true about all mitzvos. When a person faces a nisoyon – a difficulty in his adherence to the Torah, he may find excuses. “It is hard to find this or that.” Due to the difficulty in finding the right solution when a mitzvah or halachic requirement is involved, the person may permit himself to do something that is not completely proper, because he doesn’t have “this or that.” The Torah is informing us about this ploy of the yetzer hara so that we should not be let astray through such tactics. When difficulties in the performance of mitzvos arise, we should stand up for our values and not find ourselves excuses or leniencies.

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