(Continued from Numbers 32:22 AMJV 314-5 clear) It is a Torah imperative that Jews take into account how their actions are perceived by others-i.e., Jews must always behave in a way that is not only moral, but that also appears moral to others. King Solomon echoes the same imperative when he writes that Jews need to be right and seek favor both in G-d's eyes and in men's eyes (Proverbs 3:4). Traditional Jews ask G-d to help them achieve this goal each day when they recite the Grace After Meals (End of the last blessing of Birkat Hamazon). This concept of taking an action specifically to assure that one does not appear guilty in the eyes of others is such an important one that it saved the Jewish people twice in the desert. If not for this idea, the entire Jewish people, as we know it, would simply not exist today. After the first great sin that the people committed in the desert by worshiping the Golden Calf, G-d wanted to destroy the entire nation and begin again with Moses. What was Moses' argument that saved to the Jewish people from destruction? Moses tells G-d that if He were to destroy the Jewish people, the Egyptians would (and completely erroneously) think that G-d was simply two-weak to fulfill His promise to bring them into the holy land (see Ibn Ezra commentary) and that is the reason the Jewish people were destroyed, rather than because of their sins (Exodus 32:11-12, 14). Though the Egyptians would have been totally mistaken to think this way, and G-d's punishment of death would have been deserved (an omnipotent G-d could certainly have brought them to the land of Israel), G-d relents and does not destroy the people in order to avoid a Chilul Hashem-desecration of His name. Moses uses the same argument less than two years later one more time. The Jews sin, once again, in believing the ten spies' negative report and not having faith that G-d would make them victorious in their conquest of the land of Israel. Once again G-d wishes to destroy the people. This time, Moses spells out what people would say if this were to occur: The Egyptians would say that G-d had some powers, but not enough strength to lead them successfully into the land of Israel and triumph over the seven nations living there, and that is why G-d had to destroy the Jews in the desert (Numbers 14:11-20). As foolish and incorrect as this argument was, G-d says to Moses that he forgives the Jewish people "because of your words." Thus, how something appears is as important as doing the right thing. Even G-d changed His plans and the Jewish people were saved because of how this situation would appear to the nations [of] the world, even though, had He acted as He had wanted to, of course G-d would have been right and the nations mistaken. Rabbi Moses Sofer (1762-1839), one of the most outstanding and pious rabbis in Europe, writes that one of the most difficult precepts he encountered in trying to fulfill all of Judaism's Commandments is this one. It was far easier for him to remain "clean" and righteous in the eyes of G-d than to "to remain clean in the eyes of his fellow man (Responsa Chatam Sofer 6:39)." People are always filled with all kinds of suspicions and thoughts, even about Rabbis, so a Jew must be very diligent not only to be guiltless but also to appear guiltless in the eyes of others.
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