parsha of the week

After Charlottesville and eclipse, being ‘tamim’


Two things dominated the news last week: Charlottesville, and the solar eclipse that crossed the United States, with the umbra spanning 16 states. Each of these stories delivered a different reminder to us.

Charlottesville showed that there are despicable people guided by a hateful ideology. And with the exception of war, which is a different category of violence focused on eradicating evil, violence in an otherwise peaceful commonwealth is not the way US citizens are meant to resolve their differences.

Meanwhile, the eclipse demonstrated that G-d put together a universe with wisdom and allowed for things to happen and align, even in the vastness and infinity of outer space, that serve as a steady reminder that He is there.

Both of these reminders are embodied in one of the more fascinating verses to grace Shoftim, this week’s parsha: “Tamim Tihyeh im Hashem Elokekha” (“Be complete with the Lord your G-d”).

There is a debate as to whether this statement is a mitzvah. Nachmanides felt it is while Maimonides felt it is not. Regardless, it seems to be an important instruction as to how we are to go about our lives.

Let’s look at three examples of how to do this.

•Targum Yonatan describes being tamim as being complete in one’s far of G-d. Perhaps adding King Solomon’s “know Him in all your ways” (Mishlei 3:6) would further support this approach.

•R Yosef B’khor Shor describes being tamim as being simple, of simple needs. Have the attitude of the verse in Divrei Hayamim I 19:13 — G-d does what is good in His eyes.

•The Sifrei takes a novel approach on the verse saying, “When you are tam (innocent) your portion is with Hashem your G-d.” Being “with G-d” is the reward for being tamim.

The first person in the Torah who is described as being tamim is Noach. Perhaps he embodies the lessons learned from the news this week, in his demonstration of how temimut — being “perfect” or “complete” or “innocent” — is the way to embody and appreciate those reminders.

He understood that “what G-d gives you, you take.” He did not ask for the evil to be spared. He accepted what G-d was doing as G-d’s will. Avraham, the next person to be called tamim, also did not defend evil. He asked G-d to spare the cities from being destroyed, but said nothing about G-d not eliminating the evil people.

Noach dealt with difficult people. He knew what was coming and was aware of his assignment — though perhaps he did not originally know exactly which people would be coming on the Ark with him. But he knew there were evil people, and that their approaches to life and living were not satisfactory to G-d.

And Noach contemplated the cosmos and he saw G-d. For him, the sign was the rainbow — not an eclipse — but even the rainbow teaches an important lesson about humanity. It shows how different colors can exist in harmony and create a beautiful sight. Anyone who believes in a G-d Who is a Father to all must understand that the challenges humans face in creating goodness can easily be reconciled if we embrace the rainbow of humanity as G-d’s children.

Evil is the antithesis of this. Violence is the antithesis.

Just as stealthily and as beautifully as the moon aligned between the earth and the sun to create the eclipse, we have the opportunity to put ourselves in a position to promote goodness and decency and godliness through being positive and caring of others.

Through being tamim, we will merit to be with G-d. Isn’t that something worth striving for?