Torah Portion: Va’era ( I Appeared) Exodus 6:2-9:35
HafTorah: Ezekiel 28:25-29:21
I want us to look at a question that I think has bearing on our Torah portion this week. I have been discussing this subject with some of you this week and have continued to think about it as the week has progressed. I shared with you a few months ago the title of an interesting book I was reading, “Seven Questions You are Asked in Heaven.” This book will provoke you to think, which is always a good thing.
Please read the first part of our Torah portion: Exodus 6:2-8. What moved G-d to act? He heard the groaning of the people as they were being mistreated and enslaved by Pharaoh. Further, we read G-d’s actions, “bring them out”, “rescue them”, redeem them and “take them as His people.” Later we will revisit this if time permits. Now however, I want us to look at the first question in the book I mentioned to you, that the author says we will be asked in heaven. The question is: “Were you honest in your dealings with people?” I would like you to look at Exodus 20:1-17 where we read the Ten Commandments. How many of these ten deal with how we treat or interact with people? Six of the ten deal with our treatment of others. Most of these six we would have no problem with, murder, adultery, stealing, coveting, don’t give a false testimony. Or is it really so easy to keep these? What does it mean to tell a lie? A good example is Jacob and Isaac. Read Genesis 27:18-25. What do we see here? Jacob lies over and over. In verse 18 we read where Isaac asks Jacob, “Who are you?” Rabbis make quite a case over this question. They say his real question was, “Who are you really, deep down inside? Are you my son the heel grabber or have you moved on from that?” As we read Jacob’s answers we see clearly that he is still the deceiver and here a liar. In fact his lies go from bad to worse as in verse 20 where he brings G-d into his deceit. This is how it usually proceeds with lying. In any case Jacob does not deal honestly with his father and we all know the outcome of this.
In Deut. 21:10-14 it talks about enemies, not enemy. Why? Rashi says the reason is that there is the flesh and blood enemy we face but there is another powerful enemy. This enemy tells you, such things as, “might makes right, you can do whatever you want since you are the one with the power, no one will ever know, you deserve it…” It is easy to theorize and justify. But what do you do when you know no one will ever know or everyone else is doing it.
Deut. 25:13-16 talks about false weights – not even to possess them. The word used here for honest also means just or righteous. Proverbs 16:11 has the same idea. All of these verses point us to one idea – honesty in all your dealings.
Here are some examples of how easily it is to go astray in this teaching. A Christian we know had work done on their house. The repairman offered to write the bill for more than the actual charge so the person could get a large tax write off. Both people involved in this situation were Christians. Is this honest?
A friend of ours in Israel used a card to buy gas that was only for taxi drivers, thus getting gas at a much cheaper price. He was not a taxi driver but justified it by saying gas is so expensive and G-d had given him the opportunity to use this card. Honest or not?
Another personal example: For several years we used an Israeli driver to drive our groups around when we visited Israel. After a few years, he began to ask us to pay him in cash instead of a check. He even quoted a cheaper price if we would pay in cash. I justified giving him cash by saying to myself it would save Road to Zion money that could be used for work projects. But I also knew it was very common for Israelis to do this so they would not have to report it on their income tax. Was this a good testimony of my faith? Of course not. The choices that are most difficult are the actions we see everyone else doing. But can we do the same? Are we truly set apart or holy in how we live or is it difficult to pick us out from the rest of the world?
When we do these, seemly small things how does it affect our witness and how does it affect our relationship with our Heavenly Father? Another question is, why do we do these things? Is it a condition of our heart or is it greed? Do we not trust G-d to provide for us? Does it boost our ego and make us temporarily feel good about ourselves? I encourage you to think about your own life, examine how you conduct yourself on a day to day basis. Are there things you need to ask forgiveness for and change in your life?