Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, as you left
Rashi: [The preceding verses deal with the commandment to keep accurate
weights. The topics of weights and Amalek are juxtaposed for a reason. The
Torah teaches that] if you lie about measures and weights, you should expect
to see incitement by the enemy. A pair of versus in Mishlei allude to the
same idea. One pasuk2 says, “Weights of deception are the
abomination of Hashem.” It is followed3 by “Iniquity comes, and
is followed by disgrace.”
Maharal: You may be puzzled by the connection between deceptive weights and
the attack of Amalek. There would seem to be many infractions of the Torah
that could be punished by such an attack. Don’t be. There is something
particularly destructive about using inaccurate weights, which should
resonate with any believer. The world around us balances countless opposing
forces, all of them working against each other. Because they are present in
a Divinely ordered balance, an ordered, functioning world emerges from all
the chaos. We are aware – or any thinking person should be aware – that
disturbing that balance often produces catastrophic consequences.
Hashem expects that we should see in our own lives and relationships a bit
of the larger, Divine scheme. Cheating on the use of measures should remind
us of what we owe to a G-d who is so exacting in putting together our world,
and how quickly life would disintegrate if He were a bit “off” in how He
measured and apportioned things. Thus, besides the social evil of the theft,
the use of deceptive weights strikes at our belief in a Creator Who
fine-tuned His world.
Part of that fine-tuning determines that there are boundaries and limits to
the activities of hostile and conflicting governments. Enemies are kept from
annihilating one another, when Hashem wishes there to be relative peace.
When a person acts as if exactitude is of no importance to him, on some
level he evidences that Hashem’s precision does not impress him.
Appropriately, Hashem lifts the restraints that He imposed upon the enemy.
Freed of those restraints, the enemy attacks.
We can extract another remarkable approach from an observation and
comparison Chazal make between gilui arayos (illicit relations) and
inaccurate weights. “The punishment for deceptive weights is more severe
than that of arayos. The Torah references the latter with the word ha’eil;
4 regarding weights, it uses the word eileh. 5 The
additional letter heh at the end of eileh serves to intensify it,
6 indicating that it is more difficult and severe.
The gemara explains that inaccurate weights are more severe than arayos
(which is one of the three infractions for which a person must give his life
rather than transgress) in regard to teshuvah. Deceptive weights cheat an
entire public. It is not possible to ascertain which people were cheated,
and how much is owed to each. That makes full teshuvah impossible, since the
wrong cannot properly be corrected.
It would seem to me that the gemara mentions only one example of ways in
which deceptive weights are more difficult than arayos. There are others; I
will mention one.
The two infractions share a common element. Both of them deal with precise
boundaries set by HKBH, whereby He says, “This much, but not further.” Those
borders and restrictions describe the order for the running of the world
that His wisdom deems proper. He does this in legislating whom we may and
may not marry, recognizing that some matches overstep some bounds, even if
the reasons for those limits are not obvious to us. He does not tolerate
deviation from His model. Similarly, He does not tolerate deviation from the
measures and weights that are represented to a consumer.
The misrepresentation of weights is more severe in a sense. Arayos, of
course, have little to do with measurement and precision. Violating their
prohibition is a terrible sin, but it is a rejection by the sinner of only
one specific injunction. Weights, on the other hand, have no purpose other
than to represent accuracy. Distorting them turns the entire enterprise of
precise representation on its head, as if to repudiate the very concept of a
world whose boundaries should be dictated by the Will of G-d.
A nation or community capable of such a severe breach will be met with the
severity of enemy that also reckons very little with the Word of G-d or the
specialness of His people.
1. Based on Gur Aryeh, Devarim 25:17; Chidushei Aggados, Bava Basra 58B
2. Mishlei 11:1
3. Mishlei 11:3
4. Vayikra 18:27
5. Devarim 25:16
6. Rashbam, Bava Basra