Shalom Orzach

Weigh In

In addition to being a portion focussed on Holiness as its name Kedoshim implies, it could well have been called Tzadikim (tiheyu) be righteous. The only occasions where Tzeddek is mentioned in the whole book of Vayikra are in this week’s portion. It outweighs the iconic precept found in Devarim 16:20;

צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף לְמַ֤עַן תִּֽחְיֶה֙ וְיָרַשְׁתָּ֣ אֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לָֽךְ׃

Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that your God is giving you.

In a striking verse, with unusually intricate details, the term it is used four times no less, 19:37

מֹ֧אזְנֵי צֶ֣דֶק אַבְנֵי־צֶ֗דֶק אֵ֥יפַת צֶ֛דֶק וְהִ֥ין צֶ֖דֶק יִהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֑ם אֲנִי֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־הוֹצֵ֥אתִי אֶתְכֶ֖ם מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃

You shall have an honest balance, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin.I  am your God who freed you from the land of Egypt.

Rashi explains that different weights eifat and hin are used to weigh solids and liquids to be more accurate.

So why is so much in the balance and why weigh in with the rather dramatic juxtaposition of Egypt?

The prohibition against theft establishes the integrity of property and all the more importantly the right to be. In the week commemorating Yom Hashoah, we deeply understand how oppression and slavery rob us of our very essence. – Numbers replace names. The establishment of a just society rests on our ability to uphold the rights of others, – theft robs them of these. 

What is all the more astounding in understanding the implications of this directive is the context in which it occurs. The preface to the passage speaks of our obligations not to our own, so to speak , rather to the “stranger”, s/he who is most vulnerable and potentially easiest to deceive. 19:33-34;

וְכִֽי־יָג֧וּר אִתְּךָ֛ גֵּ֖ר בְּאַרְצְכֶ֑ם לֹ֥א תוֹנ֖וּ אֹתֽוֹ׃

When strangers reside with you in your land, you shall not wrong them.

כְּאֶזְרָ֣ח מִכֶּם֩ יִהְיֶ֨ה לָכֶ֜ם הַגֵּ֣ר ׀ הַגָּ֣ר אִתְּכֶ֗ם וְאָהַבְתָּ֥ לוֹ֙ כָּמ֔וֹךָ כִּֽי־גֵרִ֥ים הֱיִיתֶ֖ם בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם אֲנִ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃

The strangers who reside with you shall be to you as your citizens; you shall love each one as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am your God.

The Kav of Ke’ezrach says it all, – it is THE Kav Moznaim – The Scales of  (Lady) Justice. The ability to uphold our ethical mandate literally hangs in this balance…of power. The stranger will have the same rights as the citizen. When we consider how long this process has taken so many ‘enlightened’ countries, and the ongoing abuse still practiced in many others, this revolutionary concept is staggering. God is implying if not demanding that our freedom from Egypt rests on this. We are charged to establish and uphold a society that champions the very antithesis of our experience of the tyranny called Egypt. Our attention to these minuscule details as depicted in the verse describing Meoznei Tzedek  “Honest Balance”, is what will surely enable us to render the aforementioned directive of Kedoshim Tiheyu – to be Holy, into a tangible reality.

Shabbat shalom

About the Author
Shalom Orzach is a senior educator and consultant for the iCenter and serves on faculty for the Foundation for Jewish Camp. He was a scholar on the prestigious Jerusalem Fellows Program, following which he was the Executive Director for Jewish Renewal at the UJIA in England. Shalom is an acclaimed public speaker on contemporary Israel who brings extensive knowledge, humor and passion.
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