Bahar- weekly Torah portion

In the Torah reading of this week we find, “you shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God”. In the Talmud, Baba Metzia, 58, B, we find the following (free translation): “‘you shall not wrong one another’ – it is about Scripture refers to verbal wrongs. You say, ‘verbal wrongs’; but perhaps that is not so, monetary wrongs being meant? When it is said, And if thou sell aught unto thy neighbor, or acquirest aught of thy neighbor [yeshall not wrong one another], monetary wrongs are already dealt with. Then to what can I refer, you shall not therefore wrong each other? To verbal wrongs. E.g., If a man is a penitent, one must not say to him, ‘Remember your former deeds.’ If he is the son of proselytes he must not be taunted with, ‘Remember the deeds of your ancestors. If he is a proselyte and comes to study the Torah, one must not say to him, ‘Shall the mouth that ate unclean and forbidden food, abominable and creeping things, come to study the Torah which was uttered by the mouth of Omnipotence!’ If he is visited by suffering, afflicted with disease, or has buried his children, one must not speak to him as his companions spoke to Job, is not thy fear [of God] thy confidence, And thy hope the integrity of thy ways? Remember, I pray thee, whoever perished, being innocent? If ass drivers sought grain from a person, he must not say to them, ‘Go to so and so who sells grain,’ whilst knowing that he has never sold any. R. Judah said: One may also not feign interest in a purchase when he has no money, since this is known to the heart only, and of everything known only to the heart it is written, and ‘you fear your God’.”

Our sages take what clearly seems to be addressing issues of economical transactions and deceit thereof and further extend them. The extension of the ban on fraud means that one may not even about something that it is one way or another if either one is untrue. As in many times it is such that we know what’s right and what’s wrong only in our hearts, without anyone else knowing about it, we must have the fear of God within us. The verbal wrongs manifest themselves in many ways. It is forbidden to remind a convert of his or her past, it is forbidden to remind a person who ate non-Kosher stuff of their experiences, and we are even told not to enter negotiation to buy something when we cannot really afford doing so. Today we may simply refer to it as entering a negotiation in good faith, doing so in all of our relationships and especially with the way we approach those who are different from us.

Israel is now several weeks after the elections and some of the controversies continue. In our political system, when a single party cannot form a government on its own, other parties are approached to join in. It is a complex process that involves intensive negotiations that are accompanies by exaggerated, divisive and baseless demands. Admittedly there are also some attempts to navigate, each party based on its values and promises to its voters, to a port that best suits its needs. In the process there are also many compromises made. One would expect that the lead party would be giving up the least and the smaller ones giving up most. Our reality however seems to be quite different, possibly completely the opposite, yielding a situation where the smaller parties actually get much more than they are really worth. Nevertheless, despite the tough negotiations, still this does not have to include verbal wrongs suggested by the Talmud, and are still within the ordinance of “you shall not wrong one another”.

Into all of this debate now crept in the issue of the Law of Immunity that the forming coalition guided by the prime minister are attempting to forward. The very prime minister who was notified by the attorney general that he may be indicted in a legal proceeding. Here, I am sorry to say, the prime minister is clearly engaged in wronging another. This is already serious matter and an inappropriate conduct. Let there be no doubt, the prime minister of Israel, like any other citizen of the country should enjoy the presumption of innocence. He is entitled to be heard by the attorney general in good faith and fairness, as would anyone else be entitled to. However, after stating in his own voice that he will not change the Law of Immunity when interviewed before the elections, he should refrain from doing so post the election. The prime minister is correct when saying that Israel deserves a prime minister that is free to run the business of the country. By that token the State of Israel is similarly entitled that the person at the helm will not be suspect of criminal activity. Raising a suspicion that Israel’s system of prosecution and justice is partial against the prime minister is a slippery slope. If so claims the prime minister what should the ordinary person on the street think?!

MK Gideon Sa’ar from the Likud, the prime minister’s party, was interviewed on the news on channel 12 on Thursday evening. He rightfully argued against this foolish idea. He continues to support the PM, thinks that he should continue to be the head of state, but thinks that the change of the law will hurt Netanyahu, the Likud party and the State of Israel. The prime minister should take some time to think this over once more, considering the law of not wronging another in its extended context as well as its reflection in today’s Israel, and reverse this unworthy and shameful attempt.

Shabbat Shalom.

Reuven Marko, 17 May 2019, 13 Iyar, 5779

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