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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Honesty

By Rabbi Sender Haber

There are very few things that the Torah calls disgusting. Most of them have to do with idol worship, illicit relationships and eating snails. But in Parshas Ki Seitze we are told that owning false weights and measures is not only a To’eivah - disgusting, but a To’avas Hashem – something that Hashem finds disgusting and abominable.

Back in the days of old fashioned scales, shopkeepers would measure the produce that they were selling against a one pound weight. The customer would depend on the storekeeper to use an accurate one pound weight and there was a certain trust that existed. Dishonest shopkeepers would shave a little metal off of the weight and the customers would get slightly less than they thought they were getting. Of course, when the shopkeeper was buying produce from a wholesaler he wouldn’t use a smaller weight. He would keep a bigger weight so that if he is the one buying, he can be sure that he is getting his full money’s worth (and possibly more).

Gas stations purchase gasoline from wholesalers and measure it at sixty degrees Fahrenheit. Sometimes, when they sell the gas, it is dispensed in the middle of the day when temperatures reach eighty or ninety degrees. The volume of the gas goes up but the weight of the gas (and the energy that it produces) does not. They are charging you an extra 7-10 cents on the gallon because they are not giving you the full weight and mileage that you are paying for. If this fact is misrepresented by the gas station, it may be forbidden.

In grocery stores, there are always two types of scales: there are the scales available to the customers as they shop for tomatoes and then there are the scales used by the cashiers at checkout. According to halacha, the scales used by the customers need to be just as accurate as the scales used at the register.

The same applies in our homes. We may not rig a scale to make us feel bigger or smaller and we may not adjust our measuring cups so that we eat less sugar. Reb Shlomo Zalman allows some leeway based on societal expectations, but ultimately the prohibition to have false weights is very real and an important and practical part of the Torah.

The Netziv and the Klei Yakar write that the prohibition against owning and using false weights is not just stealing. It is about living a lifestyle that goes against the Torah. If we honestly believe that Hashem will provide for us (or cause us losses) we won’t make ourselves crazy trying to make shtick with larger weights and smaller weights.

The Yerushalmi tells us that when we come up to heaven we will be asked six questions. The second question is: “Were you faithful in business?” Rav Pam explains that this doesn’t just refer to being faithful to our customers – it involves having faith in Hashem. If we have faith in Hashem when we conduct business, all of our attitudes and strategies and ways of thinking will be different.

The same applies to all areas of our lives. As Rosh Hashana approaches we need to make sure that we organize and arrange our lives and schedules in ways that are conducive to the type of life that we want to lead. It is hard to quit smoking with a box of cigarettes in your pocket. It is hard to come to Mincha if you need to have a beer and a cigar at 6:00 every evening.

When Rav Gifter was living in Waterbury, CT there were not many frum Jews around. When rabbis cme to visit, he would always invite them to inspect his home. “Open the cabinets, look under the beds”, he would say, “Make sure that my home is conducive to Torah growth”.

As we think about our lives and the coming year, we need to be honest with ourselves and with others. Honest for its own sake is a virtue, but honesty is so much more important when it is part of allowing our trust in Hashem to be a part of everything that we do.

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