Israel Forever

For the week ending 4 September 2004 / 18 Elul 5764

Public and Private Morality

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Library Library Library

When we read and hear about the suspicion of corruption of high public officials in Israel who thought that they could get away with their well-concealed crimes, we are reminded of the historic scene described in the weekly Torah portion which will be read this Shabbat.

Our ancestors were commanded that upon entering Eretz Yisrael they were to assemble at Mount Gerizim and Mount Eival to hear the blessings and curses enumerated in this chapter and to acknowledge them by calling out "Amen". This was akin to a new acceptance of the Torah upon entering the Land and a pledge of allegiance to the Torah as the source of Jewish nationhood.

The common denominator of the twelve commandments accompanied by the blessing for those who observe them and a curse for those who spurn them is that they are the sort of transgressions which would most likely be done secretly. By committing themselves through the saying of "Amen" to the blessings and curses proclaimed by the Levites, the people standing atop these two mountains declared their awareness that G-d knows what is done in secret and will eventually expose and punish the sinner. They also expressed the belief that there can be no conflict between public and private morality.

What a valuable lesson for those in positions of responsibility who publicly preach respect for the law and privately abuse it!

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