Thursday, April 3, 2014

Seeing Through Deceptions

The Exodus from Egypt, which culminated in the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, was a defining moment in Jewish history. Not only does the Torah narrate the events of the Exodus, but, quite a few of the mitzvot are specifically mandated with a reference to the Exodus. Indeed, each week Jews celebrate Shabbat to fulfill the commandment to Guard Shabbat because “you were a slave in Egypt and God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 5:14).

Some of the other commandments associated with a reminder that God brought the Jewish people out of Egypt are the prohibition against taking interest on a loan, the prohibition against using false weights and measures and the mitzvah of wearing a thread of techelet (a specific blue dye) on tzitzit (fringes worn on a four cornered garment). The sage Raba specifically asked:

Why did the Divine Law mention the exodus from Egypt in connection with interest, fringes and weights? The Holy One, blessed be He, declared, "It is I who distinguished in Egypt between the first-born and one who was not a first-born; even so, it is I who will exact vengeance from him who ascribes his money to a non-Jew and lends it to an Israelite on interest, or who steeps his weights in salt, or who [attaches to his garment threads dyed with] vegetable blue and maintains that it is [the real] blue" (Talmud Baba Metzia 61b).

The discussion specifies steeping weights in salt as part of using false weights in order to teach “that one transgresses at the very moment that this is done” (ibid).

This Talmudic passage speaks to those who think that they can fool others as a reminder that a High Power is always aware of one’s actions and motivations.

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