Taking Truth To Heart I
By Rabbi Daniel Travis
When Avram was ninety-nine years old God appeared to him and said, “I
am the Almighty. Walk before Me and be perfect.” (Bereshith 17:1)
Tamim – perfect – means that there is no contradiction between one’s inner
feelings and one’s external actions – that one’s actions are in perfect
harmony with the feelings in one’s heart. Although every mitzvah is
precious in God’s eyes, one done in such a fashion is especially dear, for
it is an unequivocal declaration of Divine greatness. Because it is often
difficult to achieve absolute synchronization between one’s heart and
one’s actions, this praise is reserved only for the truly righteous.(1)
One who studies Torah is expected to strive to attain this quality, and if
he is satisfied by superficially acting out the precepts that he has
learned, he lacks an important characteristic of a Torah scholar.(2) In
accordance with this, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach would not give his
approbation to a book on ethics unless he knew that the author’s daily
life was a reflection of all that he had written. Since an approbation
confirms the acceptability of the book’s author, not just its contents, he
felt that such a recommendation would not be absolutely true if he gave it
to someone who professed values that he did not live up to.(3)
In its proper form this attribute is meant to permeate every aspect of
ones being, especially speech. A person who lacks tamimuth is
hypocritical, saying one thing while he really means something completely
different. King Dovid expressed this eloquently when he said, “Guard your
tongue from evil and your lips from deception.”(4) Evil is associated
with the tongue and deception with the lips, because although an evil
person acts improperly, at least he does not disguise his bad intentions.
Since his behavior is consistent with his intentions, he is identified
with the tongue, which is a single entity. A deceitful individual,
however, pretends to befriend others, while in his heart his intention is
to harm them. Like the deceitful person, the lips are split across the
middle and divided in two.(5)
1. Rabbeinu Bachyeh on Bereshith 17:1.
2. Yoma 72b.
3. Me’or HaGadol, p. 137.
4. Tehillim 34:14.
5. Vilna Gaon commentary on Mishlei 2:12.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org