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A TALE OF TWO IDENTITIES

by Ezra Cohen    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"Each of you shall not cause grief to his fellow, and you shall fear your G-d; for I am Hashem, your G-d" (Leviticus 25:17).

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"Each of you shall not cause grief to his fellow, and you shall fear your G-d; for I am Hashem, your G-d" (Leviticus 25:17).

The rabbis, examining this verse, noticed an apparent redundancy. It would have been sufficient to have said, "Each of you shall not cause grief to his fellow [because] I am Hashem, your G-d." Why was the additional phrase of "you shall fear your G-d" necessary?

The sages answer this question by explaining that it is possible to use your supposed fear of Hashem to your own advantage and to the detriment of others. A person can put on a shroud of kindness and religiosity with the specific intent of deceiving others. This idea is illustrated by the following story. There once was a fundraiser who came knocking on the door of a wealthy business man. Unwilling to part with his hard-earned money, the stingy man immediately accused the collector of representing an unworthy cause, creating an excuse which would mask his own miserliness. The business man even went on to quote several Talmudic sources which looked down upon the giving of money to undeserving solicitors.

By responding in such a manner, the wealthy man was hiding his selfishness by espousing to the Talmudic references. The verse therefore warns us against such behavior. Don't take advantage of others through feigned religiosity; actually be G-d fearing because as the verse concludes, "I am Hashem." He is always watching.

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Ezra Cohen, a native Atlantan and alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta, will be graduating Yeshiva University later this month in New York.

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