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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3


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NUMBERS — 33:35 Etzion-geber

In addition to the intrinsic sin and violation of ethical behavior by the greedy individual, the greedy Jew also necessarily violates a host of other sins in the process of displaying greed (many of which are discussed in other chapters in this volume). For example, by immorally taking money from others due to greed, a Jew is guilty of stealing, a Torah violation (Leviticus 19:11). Even taking a very minor amount is still considered stealing (Maimonides, Hilchot Genaiva 1:2). And if the person is not aware that he or she is being swindled, this is the classic definition of stealing (Maimonides, Hilchot Genaiva 1:3). Another sin that a greedy person is guilty of (by swindling victims without their knowledge) is that of being a hypocrite. It is a Torah violation not to be "whole with G-d," i.e. act the same on the inside and on the outside (Deuteronomy 18:13). In fact, Rabban Gamliel would throw out any student from the Beit Midrash-House of Jewish Learning, if he showed any hypocrisy (Berachot 28a). All those arrested for swindling other or cheating the government, at one time, seemed to act legitimately-until they were caught. They all acted hypocritically, especially those who supposedly were Torah-observant Jews. Maimonides states that it is absolutely forbidden to act one way and think another way (or act differently in secret) (Maimonides, Hilchot De'ot 2:6). According to the commentaries, this action is a Torah violation, much like a land that appears fruitful on the surface, but beneath the ground everything is rotten (Numbers 33:35 with Ibn Ezra and Malbim commentaries). When King David specified the formula for a long and meaningful life, he stated that a Jew should not speak with guile. Rabbi David Kimchi understands this to be acting hypocritically, i.e., speaking one way but acting in a different manner (Psalms 34:13-14 with Radak commentary). Thus, an individual can achieve a great life by refraining from being a hypocrite. This is especially true in business, regarding which one's word should be one's bond, and a violation of one's word violates a Torah law (Leviticus 19:36, Bava Metzia 49a). Of the three types of individuals whom G-d hates most in this world, the number one category is a person who acts hypocritically (Pesachim 113b). Thus, if one's greed leads to speaking to people nicely as he or she cheats them, this is the ultimate sin.

NUMBERS — 33:52 destroy

We may now proceed to examine the areas in which a biblically prescribed harsh treatment appears to be contrary to established principles of compassion. A survey reveals two distinct concerns of early Judaism. One was the survival of monotheism in an ocean of paganism. The other was the eradication of bloodshed in a primitive society where feuds were normally resolved by murder. In both of these areas the Bible demands strict justice untempered by mercy. The promise of the Land of Canaan to the Children of Israel was contingent upon their acceptance of monotheism. Moses warned that the Canaanites must be expelled and their idols destroyed [this verse]. Coexistence with the Canaanites, a morally corrupt people, would have aborted the growth of monotheism at its very inception. The harsh decree of expulsion was an emergency measure which did not establish an ethical norm. It was never applied to the pagans of other countries, for their practices posed no danger to the viability of monotheism in Palestine. Thus when the prophet Jonah rued G-d's willingness to forgive the Ninevites (4:2), G-d retorted: "Shall I not have compassion for Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons?" (4:11). In every situation where idolatry threatened to weaken the will of the people to uphold monotheism, the Bible warns against permitting compassion to undermine the determination to uproot idolatry. This admonition was couched in the oft-repeated classical phrase: "Thine eyes shall not pity them" (Deuteronomy 7:16). It applied equally to pagans and to backsliding Jews guilty of inciting the people to revert to idolatry (Deuteronomy 13:9). Continued at Deuteronomy 19:13 pity BLOCH 64).

NUMBERS — 35:2 pasture

A healthy ecological balance dictates that there must remain distance between city and rural areas. Thus, the Torah [this verse] does not permit any planting or building in the one-thousand-cubit radius around the city. Rashi on this verse, based on the Talmud (Bava Batra 24b) comments that the purpose is also to protect the beauty of the city. Thus, the Torah was concerned about zoning and city beautification. The Mishnah (Bava Batra 2:7) states that even a tree had to be a distance of at least 25 cubits (37 – 50 feet) from the city, and some say fifty cubits, in order to allow proper growing of trees and prevent possible damage.

NUMBERS — 35:11 kills

A person must be careful that his actions do not lead to someone's death. The Torah states that if someone kills another person unintentionally, he is obliged to flee to one of the six cities of refuge in Eretz Yisroel which were especially set aside for this purpose. The Chinuch (410) explains that this punishment, going into exile, can be equated with death. The manslayer, albeit his action was not intentional, has to atone for his negligence which caused the loss of someone's life. A person must be very careful while engaging in any action that could possibly harm someone. Today this is especially relevant when driving a car. A driver must devote himself entirely to driving since one careless move could easily lead to a fatal accident. When you are upset or tired, do not drive.

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