Ki Tetze II - WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
FOR MANY CENTURIES man has used the scale and the measuring rod for buying, selling, surveying and exchanging goods. To this day, whenever we buy or sell - whether food, land or furnishings - the value is determined by the size or weight of the object. Think what science would be like without the scale or the measuring rod. No research worthy of the name would be possible without the meticulous use of weights and measures. Long ago the prophet informed us that when God wished to create a balanced universe, He used the scale and the measuring rod to achieve it. "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out the heavens with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth with measures, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in balance?" (Is. 40:12).
Little wonder that the Torah has a set of rules and regulations regarding their proper use. In our sidrah we read, "Thou shall not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small. Thou shalt not have in thy house divers measures, a great and a small. A perfect and just weight shalt thou have, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have" (Deut. 25:13-15).
It is surprising to note that the Torah refers to this subject in yet another book of the Five Books of Moses. "You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment in meteryard, weight or measure. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah and a just bin shall you have" (Levit. 19:35).
Why the repetition? Evidently, the scale and measuring rod mentioned in our sidrah encompasses more than ordinary instruments that are associated with commerce and science. The Torah wanted us to know that there are also measuring devices in the spiritual and moral realms that have to be used honestly and with great care. This is clear from the fact that the Zodiac sign for the month of Tishri, which marks the beginning of the Hebrew calendar year, is moznayim -scales. This is a suitable symbol for Rosh Hashanah which is known as the Yom ha-din, the Day of Judgment, when God examines the records of men and weighs their deeds on the scales.
The classic example of this kind of symbolism is found in the Book of Daniel. We are told that Belshazzar, King of Babylonia, summoned Daniel to read and interpret the writing which a mysterious hand had inscribed on the wall of his palace. Daniel read the words mene, mene, tekel, upharsin, which he interpreted in the following manner: "Mefie. God has numbered your kingdom and brought it to an end. Tekel. You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Upharsin. Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians" (Daniel 5:25-28).
Thus we see that when the Torah speaks of scales it frequently means instruments that weigh and measure human attitudes and motives, feelings and desires, beliefs and opinions, achievements and deeds.
One of the major failings of society is the tendency to apply favorable sets of standards of judgments and opinions for ourselves and unfavorable ones for others. To vindicate our conduct and to make our record of achievements look more impressive, we use scales that are balanced in our favor. But for others we use "a small scale." We denigrate and belittle the standing and accomplishments of neighbors and friends. By minimizing the worth of others, we hope to achieve greater credit for ourselves. That is what is meant by the prohibition of being a mitkabed biklon chavero, of gaining honor at the expense of shaming others" for which one is deprived of olam haba (Maimonides Hilchot Teshuvah 4:4).
There are numerous examples of this kind of distortion and abuse. When someone takes his time in doing something, we say that he is slow, but when we do the same, we say that we are thorough. When the other fellow finds fault, we say that he is "a crank," but when we do it, it is due to our good taste. When someone we know does not attend to his work, we say that he is irresponsible and lazy, but when we do it, we explain it as due to being overburdened and hard pressed. When the other fellow does anything on his own, he is aggressive and overstepping authority, but when we do the same, we call it initiative. When someone takes a stand on an important issue, we call him opinionated and stubborn, but when we do it, we are being conscientious and courageous. When someone in our office is promoted to a higher position, it is because he has pull with the boss or because he knows how to fawn and extend false compliments to his superiors, but when we manage to get ahead, it is due to efficiency and hard work. This practice of employing two yardsticks - one for ourselves and another for others - is a major cause of friction, jealousy and hostility that pervades the relationship between nation and nation, man and his neighbor, husbands and wives, parents and children. The Torah insists "Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights . . . and measures."
One must weigh, measure and judge honestly. Others are not worse than we are; neither are they much better. If we are willing to be charitable regarding our own faults and foibles, why not be equally kind about the blemishes and deficiencies of others?