Moshe shares one of the most important points of our faith in this week’s Parasha, but it may not be what you think.
Did you know that the 10 Commandments are repeated in this week’s Parasha? Deuteronomy 4:13. No that is not what I am talking about.
But, did you know that the quintessential Jewish prayer – the Shema – is conveyed for the first time in this week’s Parasha? Deuteronomy 6:4-9. No, I am not talking about that either.
Well, what could rise to the level of or even be higher than the 10 Commandments or the Shema?
Moshe says: Be sure to keep the commandments, decrees, and laws that the Lord your God has enjoined upon you. Do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord that it may be well with you….Deuteronomy 6:17-18.
On this phrase of “doing what is right and good,” the Rabbis ask: Isn’t that redundant? Doesn’t performance of all of God’s commandments, decrees and laws encompass the whole of Judaism? What more is there?
The answers to this question are profound and speak to the beauty of our faith and God’s true expectations of each of us.
The Talmud teaches that the law of the Torah is a minimum threshold. The requirement to do what is right and good asks us to go beyond the letter of the law, not in the strictness of its application, but in the spirit of its intention.
The Torah commentator Rashi cites the willingness to compromise, to be flexible, not to insist always on that to which someone feels entitled. The law is the law, but there is a moral component in all that we do… how we behave and how we get along with others.
Another of our great Rabbis, the Ramban, extends Rashi’s message a bit further. He teaches that the Torah could not possibly mention every possible human interaction, factual circumstance and every relationship. Each person is an individual with different needs and sensitivities. Each person is entitled to be respected and understood. Few situations are truly black and white vs. the multitude of gray areas. The imperative of always “doing what is right and good” guides us in all of those gray areas.
We do not revere those who merely comply with the law, though even that may not be as simple as it seems. There can be some very not nice individuals who follow the law. We revere those whose actions and behaviors transcend mere compliance. We revere those who reach out to others “lifnim mi-shurat ha din” going beyond the letter of the law with moral and sensitive behaviors, exhibiting genuine understanding and love for others.
The imperative of always “doing what is right and good” and not merely what the law requires is at the core of what it means to be a Jew.
This Shabbat, we resume our regular Torah Study and are led by Melissa Ser. She will be discussing the Ten Commandments, the theme of consolation on this Shabbat Nachamu (the Sabbath following Tisha B’Av) and reflecting on some recent events. 9:45 a.m. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.