Drawn To Scale – Acharei Mot-Kedo
The two connected portions Acharei Mot and Kedoshim are chock-full of mitzvot and myriad details: “You shall not gather the [fallen clusters] of your vineyard; for the pauper and convert you shall leave them… Do not curse a deaf man… Do not place a stumbling block before a blind person… Do not delay payment of a day worker… Do not pervert justice… Do not be a gossipmonger… Do not stand idly upon the blood of your friend” (19:10-18). The above commandments all seem to apply to the ‘social’ category of mitzvot that guarantee a functioning, healthy society. However, closer analysis reveals that they are likewise personal mitzvot that train one to acquire a purer, honest character. Unfortunately, we’ve come to think of the concept of ‘social justice’ as a lofty ideal rather than an attainable goal. The Torah, however, reminds us that society is just a composite of individuals, and that the way to achieve social justice is to ensure that each person is moral, just, and follows an ethical lifestyle.
In this post, I focus on an article that may seem trivial relative to the larger picture, but to me encompasses a profound concept that applies to numerous facets in life. “Do not pervert justice in your measures and weights…precise scales… precise weights… precise measurements you shall have… and you shall be just, I am Hashem” (29, 35, 26).
The Torah commands that all scales used in business and trade must be precise. Weight stones, eifah (dry measurements), hin (liquid measurements) must all be accurate. Scales have evolved into a symbol of justice and integrity; what one places on a scale to serve as the measure no one will ever know but Hashem.
The Torah ends this section with the formidable statement, ‘Ani Hashem—I am Hashem.’ It is yirat shamayim, fear of heaven, that impels a person to act with absolute integrity in business, as only Hashem can know the truth. Sheker, falsehood, is a grave sin, the converse of the imperative commandment, ‘Distance yourself from falsehood.’ Deceit, however, is even more severe, as the point is to exploit an innocent person and earn a profit at his expense. It is an awful feeling, indeed, to know that somebody deceived or exploited you.
photo – Ido Erez
In contemporary society, stones are no longer used for scales. Store scales are all digital, making it difficult to forge or cheat an unsuspecting customer. However, the challenge of maintaining business integrity has not diminished and remains a constant struggle whether one is self-employed or employed by others. Tests of honesty present themselves vis-à-vis one’s employer, public authorities, and private customers. Moreover, ethical challenges arise in even the minutest aspects of business, known as avak gazel (the ‘dust’–hints of theft) which are also extremely serious. As a designer working in close contact with clients and other service providers, I often find myself facing moral challenges that present themselves in the seemingly minutest issues.
For example, I may be out shopping with a client and spy a s-t-u-n-n-i-n-g bathroom tile! For a minute, I’m convinced that that is it. It suits the concept, style and color scheme that we chose to a tee, and its simply gorgeous! But… it is expensive relative to other tiles and doesn’t fit the set budget. Should I persuade the client that it’s worth the expense? Is it the right choice in the greater scheme of things to spend so much on tiles? What if it forces the client to compromise later on more important choices? But in my head, I already picture it installed… What to do?
Another challenge highlights the dilemma of how much to account for a client’s needs and preferences when these conflict with my personal values. For example, I recently dealt with a client who wanted to install TV screens in every room in the house, including the kitchen and bathrooms. Naturally, I wasn’t thrilled about the idea from a professional or personal standpoint—to say the least, but that was what the client’s wanted…
So which side of the scale bears the weight of justice? The side with the client’s wishes and tastes? Or the side featuring my professional knowledge, experience, preferences and values?
Ultimately, I feel that what’s right and just is to listen closely to the spoken and unspoken needs and values of the client and be honest and specific about how I can enhance these with my professional knowledge that the client may not have considered. Essentially, this means being precise about how and where I carefully place my weights of justice…
Add the scales!
Scales can also be utilized as a unique accent in home décor. Their antique, atypical shape lends a touch of vintage to any home. Decorated with fruit, vegetables, a plant or flowers, they inject a village-style ambiance into a room that exudes simplicity, industriousness and old-fashioned integrity.
Scales can be integrated into various spots in the home or garden, but a kitchen is doubtless the most suitable place!
redonline, photo by: Loupe Images/Polly Wreford
When I redecorated my own kitchen in the early spring, a set of scales (which I purchased years ago in a flea market!) was accorded a special place of honor!
My kitchen… Design: Aviva Loberbaum Photo: Meitav Imas
I love scales dating back to the era of glorious independence! And since we’re talking Israeli independence, I’m picking an image of Ma’azaei Ha’aretz, the Israeli brand-name for scales!
photo by: הגר דופלט from mako
A healthy balance
Scales are set to even themselves out. So too, in all realms of life we must seek to reach a healthy balance both in our interpersonal relationships and deep inside ourselves. Rather than working toward any extreme, we should strive for the middle, golden road – the point of equilibrium where we find inner peace and peace with others.
Wishing us all a happy independence day!