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Shabbat Parashat Shoftim 5780

Parashat Hashavua: Be Tamim; Avoid Miracles and Dispute

Harav Yosef Carmel

In the past, we have pointed out that the Torah section forbidding magic and seeking out the dead, which ends with the exhortation to be tamim (simple/pure) (Devarim 18:9-13) is followed by the fact that we are different from the C’na’anites in that we follow prophets rather than magicians (ibid. 14-22).

In stark contrast to the magician, our belief in Hashem is linked to our belief in the reliability of the pure prophet, Moshe Rabbeinu. Hashem said to Moshe: “Behold, I am coming to you in the thickness of the cloud, so that the nation will hear when I speak to you, and also in you they will believe forever” (Shemot 19:9). The Rambam (Yesodei HaTorah 8:1) stresses that this pasuk is the source of the idea that it was specifically the revelation at Sinai which was the proof that Moshe’s prophecy is truth without any doubts. It is therefore not surprising that the “leading word” in this section is davar (the word).

There is another Torah section dealing with prophecy from a different perspective (Devarim 13:2-6). There the prophet’s standing is established by means of ot or mofet (miracles). It is difficult to distinguish between magic and ot and mofet. That is why the Rambam writes: “One who believes based on otot always has some doubt that perhaps the ot was done by means of magic and deception.” The differences could be like the “width of a hair,” and who says one would find them?  

When Moshe was sent with miracles to Paroh, he was told to expect to be challenged to come up with a mofet, which Hashem said should be the staff turning into a serpent (Shemot 7:9). But Chazal said that this was a sign for Moshe and Aharon, not for Paroh, who was not impressed, for his magicians did things of that nature often and repeated them for Moshe (see ibid. 11).

Such magicians of different sorts appeared on our nation’s stage (too) many times. The great majority of the time, they acted in manners that were connected to impurity of various sorts. Therefore, it is important to warn over and over, as we learned from the Torah that Moshe presented, that we should stay far away from such things. The only recommended approach is to follow the path of temimut (simple and straightforward belief) in the Creator who gave us a Torah that is temima (unblemished), which rejuvenates the soul. It is a Torah that can be grasped only through a life of purity that brings to holiness. “You shall be tamim before Hashem.”

Rav Yisraeli taught us not to take part in secret teachings and beliefs. Moshe finishes off his teachings in the Torah with the following declaration (Devarim 29:28): “The hidden matters are for Hashem, and the revealed matters are for us and our children for all times – to do all the words of this Torah.”

Keeping things simple and away from hidden beliefs and agenda, in addition to the pursuit of unity and harmony between different elements of our nation, are recipes for success.  
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