Sunday, August 31, 2014

Parshas Ki Setze - dishonesty in weights and measures

The passuk says in this week’s sedrah (Devarim 25:17):
זָכוֹר אֵת אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק בַּדֶּרֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרָיִם
“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Mitzraim.”

Rashi on this passuk explains:
"זכור את אשר עשה לך" - אם שקרת במדות ובמשקלות, הוי דואג מגרוי האויב
“[The parsha of Amalek follows the parsha that prohibits using false weights to tell you that] if you were dishonest with measurements then you will fear the attack of the enemy.”         
  • Why is being attacked by Amalek an appropriate onesh for being dishonest with weights and measures?

When we thank Hashem in the Haggadah for giving us the Torah, we thank Hashem using the name ‘הַמָּקוֹם’:
בָּרוּךְ הַמָּקוֹם, בָּרוּךְ הוּא. בָּרוּךְ שֶׁנָּתַן תּוֹרָה לְעַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל, בָּרוּךְ הוּא
“Blessed in the Holy One, blessed is He. Blessed is he who gave the Torah to his people Yisrael, blessed is He.”

The Bereishis Rabbah (68:9) explains the meaning of the name “הַמָּקוֹם”:
רב הונא בשם רבי אמי אמר, מפני מה מכנין שמו של הקב"ה וקוראין אותו מקום? שהוא מקומו של עולם ואין עולמו מקומו
“Rav Huna said in the name of Rebbi Ami, ‘Why do we call Hashem “מקום”? Because He is the place of the world and the world is not his place.”
  • Why do we refer to Hashem’s being the place of the world when we thank Him for giving us the Torah?

When Yaakov asked Esav’s malach what his name was, the malach answered (Bereishis 32:30):
וַיִּשְׁאַל יַעֲקֹב וַיֹּאמֶר הַגִּידָה נָּא שְׁמֶךָ וַיֹּאמֶר לָמָּה זֶּה תִּשְׁאַל לִשְׁמִי וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתוֹ שָׁם
“And Yaakov asked and he said, ‘Please tell your name.’ And he said, ‘Why then do you ask my name.’ And he blessed him there.’”

The name in lashon hakodesh defines the essence of the thing that is being named. When Yaakov asked the malach of Esav what his name was, he was really asking what the true essence of the malach is. To this the malach of Esav responded that his name is, ‘why then do you ask my name’.

The nature of the malach of Esav is such that it is not possible to determine his true essence, therefore his response to being asked for his name or essence is ‘why then do you ask my name’.
  • Why is it not possible to determine the nature of the malach of Esav?

The Pachad Yitzchak explains as follows:

The gemara says in Kiddushin (18a):
רב חייא בר אבין א"ר יוחנן עובד כוכבים יורש את אביו דבר תורה דכתיב (דברים ב, ה) כי ירושה לעשו נתתי את הר שעיר ודלמא ישראל מומר שאני
“Rav Chiya bar Avin said in the name of Rebbi Yochanan, an idol worshipper inherits his father according to the Torah, as the passuk says, ‘For an inheritance to Esav have I given Har Seir.’

[The gemara says this is no proof because] perhaps a Yisrael who is an apostate is different. [So that even if an idol worshipper does not inherit his father, Esav would still be able to pass his inheritance to his children because he is not a idol worshipper but is instead a Yisrael who does not observe the Torah.]”

The name of Esav’s malach is indeterminate because the nature of Esav is indeterminate. Esav is not one of the shivim umos but he is also not part of the benei yisrael. The malach of Esav is the yetzer hara and the yetzer hara seeks to make itself unidentifiable in order that a person should not be able to identify and stop the yetzer hara’s activities.

If it is so difficult to identify the activity of the yetzer hara, how then can we be protected from him?

The Pachad Yitzchak explains that if we keep the Torah, then we place ourselves in Hashem’s reshus where we are safe from the yetzer hara. This is why the Haggadah uses “המקום” as the name of Hashem when we thank Hashem for giving us the Torah.


However, if the benei yisrael are dishonest with weights and measures, and we misidentify  what we are selling, then since we are no longer in the reshus of Hashem we have to be afraid of the yetzer hara and of Amalek who comes from Esav who also causes himself to be misidentified.

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