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Ki Tavo 5771

Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! What is the value of integrity?  When I first moved to Miami 20 years ago I needed a car.  I negotiated a price of $13,000 out the door for a beautiful blue Ford Taurus.  When I presented the check from the bank, the salesman said, "You owe another $180 for dealer preparation."  After explaining that our deal is "$13,000 out the door", he countered, "the $180 is standard and always added."

"No problem, just ask your sales manager to remove it or I'll purchase a car from a different dealership."  After consulting with the manager, the salesman "magnanimously" informs me that the manager has offered to split the $180 fee and I only need to pay $90!

When I turned down his kind offer, he responded, "You mean, for $90 you wouldn't purchase this car?"  To which I answered, "You mean for $90 you won't sell me the car?  But it is more than that.  Buying a car is not just about purchasing a vehicle.  It's about a relationship -- servicing the vehicle, purchasing future vehicles.  You've made it very clear that this is a dealership that I do not wish to have a relationship with."

What does the Torah say about integrity?  "Do what is upright and good in God's eyes" (Deuteronomy 6:18).  "For I, God, love justice, I hate robbery" (Isaiah 61:8).  "When you sell ... or buy (property) from your neighbor, do not cheat one another" (Leviticus 25:14).  This applies to dealing with all people.

In Pirkei Avos 4:17 (Ethics of the Fathers, 6 chapters of pithy wisdom about life) Rabbi Shimon says, "There are 3 crowns -- the crown of kingship, the crown of priesthood and the crown of Torah, but the crown of a good name is greater than all of them."

Integrity is about who you are.  A friend related that he once had a business partner who embezzled from him.  "She was one of the best business people I ever met -- clever, charming, intelligent.  Her only problem was that she'd rather make $1 with deception than $10 honestly."

There is an old Jewish story of a farmer who sells eggs to a store owner.  For every egg the store owner takes, he gives the farmer a penny which is placed in a jar.  At the end of the month the store owner gives the farmer a dime for each penny in the jar.  However, the farmer considers himself to be a very clever, devious fellow and as soon as the store owner leaves with the eggs, he steals a handful of pennies from the jar!  When we think that we are clever in cheating others, ultimately we cheat ourselves.

On the other hand, the Talmud tells the story of a sage who had a precious stone for sale.  A non-Jew approached him to purchase it not knowing that the rabbi was praying.  Taking the rabbi's silence as a rejection of his offer, the man proceeded a one-sided negotiation offering a higher and higher price.  When the rabbi finished praying he turned to the man and apologized for not responding to him since he was praying.  The rabbi then informed the man that he would sell him the stone for the original price which in his mind he had accepted though he could not verbally respond to him.

The Midrash (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1:9) teaches us that "The seal of the Holy One blessed be He is truth."  And the Torah instructs us (Deuteronomy 10:12): "... What does the Lord your God ask of you?  To fear the Lord your God, to walk in His ways ..."  Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to act with truth and integrity.

The importance of integrity is underscored in the Talmud, Shabbos 31A, which tells us that the very first question a soul is asked in the next world is: Were you honest in business?

One fourth of the Code of Jewish Law -- Choshen Mishpat -- is dedicated to integrity in financial dealings, damages and financial responsibility.  Someone who deceives others is considered "wrong," "hateful," "abominable," "despised," and "detested" (Sifra 19:35).  Our Sages have stated, "'Whenever someone steals even the value of the smallest coin from another person, it's considered as if he has taken his soul" (Bava Kama 119a).

I recently saw a great quote in the Shabbat Shalom Weekly from Senator Alan Simpson which says it all, "If you have integrity, nothing else matters.  If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters."


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Torah Portion of the Week
Ki Tavo

This week's portion includes: Bringing to the Temple as an offering the first fruits of the Seven Species special to the Land of Israel, Declaration of tithes, the Almighty designating the Jewish people as His treasured people (Deut. 26:16 -19), the command to set up in the Jordan River and then on Mount Ebal large stones which had the Torah written upon them in 70 languages, the command to have a public ratification of the acceptance of the Law from Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal; the Torah then sets forth the blessings for following the Law and the curses for not following it, and concludes with Moshe's final discourse.  Verse 28:46 tells us the importance of serving the Almighty with "joy and a good heart."  The last verse of the portion instructs us "You shall fulfill the words of this covenant and do them so that you will succeed in all that you do!"

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

In this week's Torah portion, the Almighty lists the many blessings that one receives for fulfilling the mitzvot, the commandments. Unlike other religions which promise reward in the World to Come, the Torah only speaks of this world rewards -- blessings of food in your storehouse, peace from your enemies, healthy offspring.

The Torah goes further than listing the blessings, it states, "And it will come to you all of these blessings and they will reach you, when you listen to the voice of the Almighty, your God" (Deut. 28:2).  If the Torah says "and it will come to you," why does it add the seemingly extra words "and they will reach you"?

A person does not always realize what is truly good for him or her and mistakenly runs away from the blessing.  Therefore, the Torah guarantees that the blessing will pursue the person and reach him even though he is trying to escape from it.  Only after he receives the blessing will he become aware of what is really good for him.

This idea will save a person much suffering.  When things happen that seem to be a negative occurrence, be patient before you make a final judgment.  As one event leads to another you will frequently see before your eyes that what you thought was negative in the end turned out to be clearly positive!  Be aware of occasions when this already happened to you in the past and then you will be able to internalize this awareness for the future!


CANDLE LIGHTING - September 16
(or go to

Jerusalem 6:09
Guatemala 5:45 - Hong Kong 6:08 - Honolulu 6:15
J'Burg 5:43 - London 6:55 - Los Angeles 6:41
Melbourne 5:53 - Mexico City 7:20 - Miami 7:08
New York 6:47 - Singapore 6:45 - Toronto 7:09


Integrity is doing the right thing,
even if nobody is watching.


With Heartfelt Appreciation to

Beverly Bachrach


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