Editor’s Note: There are seventy “faces” to the Torah, says the Midrash. Like a prism refracting disparate colors of light, Torah enlightens the entire spectrum of humankind with the wisdom of the Divine. In this feature, we invited individuals who have come to Torah study as adults, to reflect upon something that they have learned.
לֹא־תַֽעֲשׂ֥וּ עָ֖וֶל בַּמִּשְׁפָּ֑ט בַּמִּדָּ֕ה בַּמִּשְׁקָ֖ל וּבַמְּשׂוּרָֽה . . . אֲנִי֙ ה׳ אֱלֹֽקיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־הוֹצֵ֥אתִי אֶתְכֶ֖ם מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃
You shall not do wrong in justice, in measurement, in weight, or in the mesurah . . . I am Hashem, your G-d, Who brought you forth from the land of Egypt. —Leviticus 19:35-36
Dear Rachel, Benji, Sam, and Jordana,
A mesurah is a very small measure of volume, in modern-day terms, two or three teaspoons. Yet the Torah takes care to prohibit fraud, even in so minute an amount. The medieval French commentator Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki explains that one who is dishonest in measurement is like a judge who perverts judgment. A serious crime.
Yes, every little amount makes a difference. Who will know? you may ask. G-d will. Hence the verse’s conclusion: “I am Hashem, your G-d.”
In his Laws of Theft, Maimonides states that those who use false measures in business sin against their fellows in a way that even G-d cannot forgive them for. A wrong done to one’s fellow can be atoned for only by correcting the problem and obtaining the victim’s forgiveness. The Maggid Mishnah, a fourteenth-century commentary on Maimonides, explains the connection to the exodus from Egypt: By using a false measure, the swindler implies that G-d does not involve Himself in material matters and thereby denies the Exodus, when — with miraculous signs and wonders — G-d proved conclusively that He does.
This lesson guides me every day in my work as a contractor. The Talmud elaborates, “Rava said: when they escort a person to his final heavenly judgment, the heavenly tribunal says to him: Did you conduct your business transactions faithfully?”
Howard Glowinsky is a roofing contractor in Toronto, Canada. He writes a weekly letter to his family, based on his Torah study.