Shoftim-Equanimity

There’s an interesting word in our parsha (Shoftim) that also appears in previous parshas – the word is tamim.  Earlier in the Torah (parshat Noach and again in Lech Lecha regarding Avraham Avinu), it means “complete,” not missing anything. whole and perfect.  However, in our parsha, Rashi gives the words a different “twist,” and it’s up to us to discover why.  In our parsha, to be tamim is actually a commandment (one of the 613 from the Torah), from the verse “Be tamim with the Lord your God…”  Rashi explains, “Walk with God in equanimity, wait for Him, without investigating the future.  Instead, accept all that transpires with equanimity.”  Here are our questions:

1) Why does being tamim imply avoiding awareness of the future?  And 2) While the verse warns us not to “delve” (lish’ol) into the future, Rashi warns us not to “investigate” (lachkor) the future, which is a stronger word.  Why does Rashi use language that the verse itself does not use?

By way of explanation, we cannot take verses of the Torah out of context.  And when we examine the context of previous verses containing the word tamim, we find that it meant “complete” in fulfilling the will of God. This is true of Noach in his generation as well as Avraham in his generation.  Both were describe as tamim in the sense of being dedicated to following God’s will.  The same is true of sacrifices, which are described as tamim, meaning perfect and unblemished in Chumash Vayikrah.  However, we cannot say that of our parsha, in which the command to be tamim follows several other commands, such as, “not to do any of the loathsome practices of the Canaanite nations, such as practicing black magic and consulting the dead.”  These injunctions are few and specific, and then they are followed by our command to be tamim.  Here, it would not be logical to define tamim as “complete” with God in the same sense as previously – following all the 613 commandments – because the context only mentions a few specific commandments.  Therefore, in our verse, Rashi looked for a different understanding of the word tamim.

Rashi turns to another usage of the word tamim, which is used in conjunction with Yakov Avinu.  The Torah (Gen 25:27) describes Yakov as ist tam – a “simple man – lacking tricks or calculations,” one who “sits in the tent” all day long, learning Torah.  This is in contrast to his brother Esau, who was a “hunter” – one who used tricks and manipulation to achieve his nefarious goals.  It is in this sense that Rashi wanted to define tamim in our verse as well – as a command to be “simple” and straightforward with God, to avoid looking into the future, but rather accepting of whatever comes our way in equanimity.  In this sense, the definition of tamim in our parsha is the opposite of the previous parshas.  Whereas previous, tamim meant “perfect and whole,” here we are commanded to be “imperfect” in the sense that we do not know or have awareness of the future.

However, with this definition, we run into a bit of a problem regarding subsequent verses in our parsha.  For, following the commandment to be tamim with God, we are also told that a “prophet will arise among you…and to him you should listen.”  Why should we listen to a prophet among us who is telling the future, if we are enjoined not to look into the future and to take everything “as it comes.”  But, that is why Rashi does not write that we should avoid “delving” into the future.  He does not say that we should avoid looking into the future at all.  We are permitted to look into the future in a general way, without getting too specific, by consulting with the prophet.  However, we must avoid “investigating” the future – we must avoid looking into the future with obsessive detail.  That is why Rashi avoids using the word that appears in the verse (lish’ol) and instead uses the word lachkor (“to investigate”).  According to Rashi, it is indeed permissible to look into the future via a proper prophet.  However, we must be tamim and accepting of God by not looking into the future excessively, but rather by accepting whatever comes our way with equanimity.

For a longer more detailed rendition, go to www.jerusalemconnection.org

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavicher Rebbe, vol 14, page 64-69

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