Kedoshim – More Than Just a Guilt Trip vs. a Threat

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One of the positive mitzvos, as enumerated by the Sefer Chareidim (5:35), which can apply every day of one’s life and are done with one’s hands or body is having honest scales, weights, and measurements in business. As the Torah says: “righteous scales, righteous stones etc” (Vayikra 19:36) . Indeed, the punishment for faulty calculations in business is more severe than for incest, and one who is dishonest in business in this fashion, it is as if he is denying the exodus from Egypt. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
What does dishonest business dealings have to do with the exodus from Egypt?
This mitzva is found in this week’s Torah portion of Kedoshim: “You shall not commit a perversion of justice with measures, weights, or liquid measures. You shall have true scales, true weights, a true ephah, and a true hin. I am Hashem, your G-D, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Vayikra 19:35, 36).
Rashi gives two explanations to why the Exodus from Egypt is specifically mentioned here: “’Who brought you out’: on this condition [i.e., to observe this mitzva]. — [Toras Kohanim 19:87] Another explanation: [G-D says,] In Egypt, I discerned between the drop of a firstborn and the drop not of a firstborn. [Likewise,] I am the One faithful to exact punishment upon someone who secretly stores his weights in salt [thus altering their weight] in order to defraud people who do not recognize them [as weights that have been tampered with]. — [Bava Metzia 61b]”
The two explanations Rashi gives for why the Torah mentions the exodus from Egypt in relation to this mitzva, is that there are two methods of reinforcing oneself to be sure to adhere to the mitzva of honest business dealings. The first reason is focusing on the fact that one of the conditions for taking us out of Egypt was our scrupulousness in business dealings and how can we go against that condition. The second reason is more of an emphasis on reward and punishment; just as Hashem delved into the most minute details and punished the Egyptians, He will do the same for us and uncover even the most hidden and subtle dishonest business practice.
The first reason is based on a Sifra (another name for the Toras Kohanim) who specifically says, “‘I am Hashem your G-D who took you out of Egypt’ on this condition did I take you out of Egypt. On condition that you will accept upon yourself the mitzva of measurements. For all who admit to the mitzvos of [honest] measurements acknowledges the exodus from Egypt, and whoever denies the mitzva of [honest] measurements denies the exodus from Egypt.”
The Malbim, explaining this medrish, says that in many places the Sifra points out that there are other mitzvos that were given as a condition for leaving Egypt, like sanctifying Hashem’s Holy Name (kiddush Hashem), the prohibition of charging interest to a fellow Jew, and eating bugs and creepy crawlers. The Malbim then quotes the gemara in Bava Metzia 61b which Rashi quoted in his second answer, seemingly incorporating it into this answer, “Rava said that because interest and weights are things which could be elusive to the naked eye and people wouldn’t pick up on it, for example charging interest to a Jew through a non-Jewish party, or hiding weights in salt that could cause the weight to weigh less or more than what it is supposed to weigh, therefore the exodus from Egypt is mentioned for then Hashem’s involvement with every individual, and knowing that which was hidden was highlighted, as its written, ‘I am the one that was able to differentiate between the drop of the firstborn’ (who was a firstborn Egyptian and who wasn’t).” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
We see from this Malbim, explaining the Sifra that Rashi quotes, that Hashem took us out of Egypt on the condition we keep the mitzvos of honest measurements. The miracles that took place in Egypt epitomized Hashem’s hashgacha pratis, Divine intervention, in the most minute and finest ways; therefore by transgressing or denying this mitzva it is as if one denies the exodus from Egypt, which represents a fundamental and basic belief in Hashem’s existence and intervention in this world.

But is it really true if a head of a household spends hours on the seder night going through all the miracles of the Jewish redemption from Egypt and is singing and rejoicing over gratitude for Hashem saving us and taking us in as His children and nation, and he shares these feelings and depiction of Hashem’s hand in the exodus with his family and guests, that if he is also a sly business man who isn’t 100% honest in business, does that really mean he denies the exodus from Egypt and the fundamental belief in Hashem’s divine intervention? How can that be?

The answer is yes! He does in fact deny the exodus from Egypt, because he might be able to intellectually, and maybe on some level emotionally, express his belief in the exodus and Hashem’s part in it, but if he doesn’t actively live by what he preaches then he is a denier of the exodus from Egypt.

We see from here a very profound and chilling lesson in emuna, belief in Hashem. The ultimately true litmus test is how one lives one’s life. Does he apply what he says he believes to his life? Does he live by it? For if he doesn’t, if he says I’ll do whatever is needed to make an extra dollar, especially if it is to take care of the family, even if it means charging interest or using unlawful weights, this is in fact a denial of Hashem’s Hand in the exodus from Egypt.