NOTE: For a PDF copy of this segment, please click here. This will enable you to print out the entire text of the article. [Rev 0]
Key Concepts of Mishlei 11-01 (Integrity and Commerce)
People can reach their full potential only when they live at peace and cooperate with one another. Since human physical needs are complex, Hashem has encouraged specialization of crafts and methods of production. Through the practices of honest commerce, people are enabled to exchange what they have produced so that each person has access to a variety of goods and services.
However, effective commerce depends on personal integrity and trust. If an individual violates this trust by falsifying the weights and measures that are used in conducting trade, he is betraying Hashem’s plan for the development of society.
(א) מֹאזְנֵי מִרְמָה תּוֹעֲבַת ה’ וְאֶבֶן שְׁלֵמָה רְצוֹנוֹ:
(1) Deceptive balance-scales are an abomination to Hashem, but a perfect weight pleases Him.
This proverb describes Hashem’s reaction to dishonesty in building and maintaining instruments of measurement, such as balance scales and weights. On the surface the proverb is a succinct restatement of the corresponding verses in the Torah (Devarim 13:15):
(יג) לֹא יִהְיֶה לְךָ בְּכִיסְךָ אֶבֶן וָאָבֶן גְּדוֹלָה וּקְטַנָּה: (יד) לֹא יִהְיֶה לְךָ בְּבֵיתְךָ אֵיפָה וְאֵיפָה גְּדוֹלָה וּקְטַנָּה: (טו) אֶבֶן שְׁלֵמָה וָצֶדֶק יִהְיֶה לָּךְ אֵיפָה שְׁלֵמָה וָצֶדֶק יִהְיֶה לָּךְ לְמַעַן יַאֲרִיכוּ יָמֶיךָ עַל הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ:
13. You shall not have in your pouch a weight and a weight — a large one and a small one. 14. And you shall not have in your house a measure and a measure — a large one and a small one. 15. A perfect and honest weight shall you have, a perfect and honest measure shall you have, so that your days shall be lengthened on the Land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you.
However, the fact that Shlomo HaMelech was led to retstate these laws in the form of a proverb indicates that he wanted us to be aware of the underlying qualities of character (middos) that promote the observance of these laws. Not only that, we are being alerted to the implications of these middos in other areas of life. Thus, the laws of weights and measures are actually a mashal to broad areas of human behavior.
(א) מֹאזְנֵי מִרְמָה תּוֹעֲבַת ה’
וְאֶבֶן שְׁלֵמָה רְצוֹנוֹ:
Deceptive balance-scales are an abomination to Hashem — מֹאזְנֵי מִרְמָה תּוֹעֲבַת ה’ – because their falsehood denies the quality of truth which is the foundation of Creation. Also, it violates the trust that is essential for people to live together in peace. A perfect weight that is totally accurate pleases Him — וְאֶבֶן שְׁלֵמָה רְצוֹנוֹ – for it accustoms people to integrity in their relationships.
A series of insights illuminating this proverb are presented below. The numbers identifying the insights refer to the listing of sources of at the end of the segment.
INTEGRITY IN COMMERCE
(1) The use of correct weights reflects a commitment to truth and justice, which Hashem has established as the basis of human interaction. Thus, false weights are a betrayal of Hashem.
(2) Not only is it repugnant to Hashem to practice deception and theft by means of false measuring and weighing, even the making or possession of inaccurate measures and weights is hateful.
(3) Acquiring or maintaining the ability to perform any sin is in itself repugnant to Hashem, even when no sin is being done.
INTEGRITY IN SPEECH
(4) When a person is in a position where he can influence a decision, he has a special responsibility of choosing his words carefully and speaking honestly. If he has a habit of distorting the truth it is as though he is a merchant who maintains deceptive balance-scales.
(5) When a person has a decision to make he should not rely on guesswork, but on carefully collected evidence and testimony. It is like a merchant who weighs the goods for a transaction. He must use accurate instruments.
The primary sources used for the insights illuminating this segment are listed below.
(1) – רשר”ה
(2) – רשר”ה
(3) – בני שלמה
(4) – רבינו יונה
(5) – המאירי