The pasuk in Parshas Vayikra says: “If a person will sin and commit a treachery against Hashem by lying to his comrade regarding a pledge or a loan or a robbery; or by defrauding his comrade…” (Vayikra 5:21) This pasuk speaks of a situation where a person gives his friend something to watch. He says, “Listen, I am going out of town and I have some valuables which I do not want to leave in my unoccupied home. Can you please watch my wife’s jewelry for us while we are away?”
The neighbor agrees to watch the jewelry for his friend. When the friend returns from his vacation and asks for his wife’s jewelry back, the neighbor responds: “What jewelry?” He totally denies ever having received the deposit to watch! That is the topic of the first case in this pasuk: A person sins and commits treachery against Hashem in regard to a pledge (pikadon).
However, there is a very basic problem with the wording of this pasuk. The Torah describes it as a “treachery against Hashem“. In the dichotomy of mitzvah categories of “Sins between man and G-d” and “Sins between man and his fellow man,” we would assume that this act of treachery falls into the latter category. Yet the pasuk defines it as “a treachery against Hashem.” What does Hashem have to do with this? Why is such an act called “Me’ilah b’Hashem“?
This question is raised by Rabbi Akiva in the the Toras Kohanim, which Rashi quotes here. Rashi explains: When someone gives someone a loan, he usually summons witnesses to the handing over of the money, or he draws up a document which witnesses sign, attesting to the loan. In any business deal, there is a contract or document certifying the details of the transaction. Therefore, if someone lends money to someone, and the borrower later denies that he was ever given money, the lender will whip out the “IOU” and the borrower will not be able to deny it. In such cases, the defendant who denies the debt will be challenging the eidim (witnesses) who witnessed the transaction or signed the document.
However, Rashi continues, when I ask a person to do me a favor and watch my article of value, I do so discreetly – only allowing “the Third Party between them” (i.e. – Hashem) to know about this private arrangement. When someone approaches his neighbor asking him to do the favor of watching his wife’s jewelry, he does not bring along two witnesses to witness the transfer of the item. That is not the way it works! You are asking him to do this favor for you because you trust him. No shtar or eidim enter into the picture. The only party who is witness to this is the Ribono shel Olam! Consequently, when the watchman denies the deposit, in such a situation, he is contradicting the “Third Party between them” and is thus acting “treacherously against Hashem (u’ma’al ma’al b’Hashem).”
There are two Mishnayos in Pirkei Avos which begin with the words “The world stands upon three pillars.” The more famous of the two (Avos 1:2) concludes with the words “al haTorah, v’al ha’Avodah, v’al Gemilus Chassadim“. The second Mishna is later in that same chapter (Avos 1:18). It concludes with the words “al ha’Din, v’al ha’Emes, v’al haShalom” (upon Justice, Truth, and Peace). The Ribono shel Olam created this world, and the only way this world can exist is if there is a concept of TRUST. There must be a concept of TRUTH. Chazal say that the Signet of the Holy One Blessed Be He is TRUTH. He knows that the world cannot exist unless there is trust between people. This is how society works. It is impossible to document every transaction in life with witnesses and warnings and contracts. There needs to be trust between people.
So, when someone gives a deposit to his friend to watch—when someone gives his wife’s jewelry to his next-door neighbor when he goes on vacation—it is because “I trust him.” Human beings must have a sense of trust in their fellow man, such that they can put their faith in him not be a blatant liar and a thief. Someone who turns around and tells his friend “I don’t know what you are talking about. You never gave me any jewelry” is destroying the emes in the world. He weakens the concept of trust, upon which the world is founded.
A couple of years ago, I was going to a wedding here in Baltimore, and I was running late. I was on Reisterstown Road and I looked in my rear-view mirror and then switched lanes. There was a car in my blind spot and I went into it. I hit the back wheel of this fancy SUV. We pulled into a nearby gas station. I did not want to go through my insurance company because I had a previous incident, and I did not want my rates to go through the roof. I told the other driver, “I will pay for it.” He took it to a dealership and the repair estimate was $5,000.
I said, “Do me a favor, go to a body shop. I gave him the name of a body shop I have used. I promised him they do good work. I assured him they would not charge him $5,000. As it was, they charged him $3,000. The fellow showed me the invoice for their bill, and I sent him a check. He wrote me back a note: “You have restored my faith in human beings.” Normally, when you get into an accident with someone and there are no witnesses, people start claiming “It wasn’t my fault…”
We know how people are. There are so many cases of people trying to rip each another off! I am not claiming any great tzidkus here. It would have been a tremendous chillul Hashem on my part if I had not handled this situation with complete integrity. But here was a fellow who saw someone confess that he had caused damage when only the “Third Party Between them” witnessed the accident. He said it restored his faith in humanity!
The other traffic incident that happened to me that year occurred when I was driving on Route 29. I stopped at a traffic light. A CD fell onto the floor and I bent down to pick it up. My foot slipped off the brake and I rolled into the car in front of me, which was also stopped for the light. I was going 0 miles per hour! The whole damage was that the two screws of my license plate made indentations in the bumper of his car.
As a result of this collision, he took his wife to the hospital to have an MRI. The MRI alone was $1500. She jumped out of the car claiming “whiplash!” Why can’t people be menschen? Such actions destroy the harmony of society!
This is what Rashi means “U’ma’al ma’al B’Hashem.” (He acted treacherously against Hashem.) He destroys the pillar of trust in a fellow man’s honesty and integrity, upon which Hashem built the world.
There is a pasuk in Sefer Melachim Aleph (2:5), in which the dying Dovid haMelech instructs his son Shlomo to take care of various individuals: “Furthermore, you know what Yoav son of Tzruya did to me and what he did to the two generals of Klal Yisrael – to Avner son of Ner and to Amasa son of Yeser – whom he killed, shedding blood of war in peacetime (va’yasem demei milchama b’Shalom).”
Dovid haMelech is not just complaining that Yoav killed Avner and Amasa. That would not be bad enough. Yoav’s primary crime was that he “shed blood of war in peacetime.” Rashi explains this term: They trusted him. They felt that they were at peace with him, and they did not guard or protect themselves from his attacks.
How did Yoav kill them? He did not walk up to them and challenge them to a duel. Nor did he even take out his sword and say “I am going to kill you.” Both incidents in Tanach were situations where he gained their trust. He went over to Avner and began talking with him. When he came close to him, he slipped out his sword and stabbed him in the fifth rib. By Amassa, he pulled him by the beard as if to kiss him and then he stabbed him. The sin was not merely the taking of life. The sin was one of shedding blood of war in a time of peace. Yoav made it as though “You can trust me.” He was pretending to kiss him and stabbed him in the process!
If people cannot trust one another, society will fall apart. This is the meaning of our pasuk – if someone denies receiving a deposit, he has acted treacherously against the Almighty (u’ma’al ma’al b’Hashem)!
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Vayikra is provided below:
- #003 The Korban Pesach Today
- #048 Is Shaving Permitted on Chol Ha’Moed?
- #091 Americans in Israel: Two-Day Yom Tov or One?
- #139 Confidentiality: The Prohibition Against Revealing Secrets
- #186 Shalach Manos and Other Purim Issues
- #232 Maror: A Bitter Problem?
- #276 Is Theft Permitted to Save a Life?
- #322 A Unique Erev Pesach & Its Broader Implications
- #366 Chametz She’avar Olov HaPesach
- #410 The Obligation to Testify
- #454 Eruv Tavshilin
- #498 Honey–Why Is It Kosher
- #542 Selling Chametz
- #586 Rabbinic Confidentiality
- #630 Gebrokts and Kneidelach
- #674 Saying Karbonos
- #718 Karbanos: The Basis for Tefillah
- #762 Standing During Davening
- #806 Voice Recognition – How Reliable?
- #850 Taking Medicines on Yom Tov
- #894 Pesach-Daled Kosos: Must You Drink All 4? And Other Issues
- #938 Davening on an Airplane/Train: Must You Stand?
- #981 Accepting Shul Donations from Non-Shomrei Shabbos
- #1026 Salt on the Table
- #1069 Should Yeshiva Bochrim/Kollel Members Say Karbonos?
- #1112 A Rabbi’s Dilemma–Reveal A Confidence and Get Sued or Remain Silent?
- #1155 Pesach Issues: Maos Chittin; Ta’anis Bechorim
- #1198 Blood On Your Finger/Gums: Is It Permitted To Suck It? And Other Maaris Ayin Issues
- #1242 Seder with the Zayde – Not as Simple As You Think and Other Seder Issues
- #1286 Oy! I Forgot To Have Kavanah in Sh’monei Esrei – Now What?
- #1330 Can One Sell Any Type of Chometz?
A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.