Is it indeed the end of a naivety era?

The Parasha in the daily life - Parashat Lech Lecha - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5780

In our Parasha, Abraham was commanded to circumcise himself when he was ninety-nine years old:

וַיְהִ֣י אַבְרָ֔ם בֶּן־תִּשְׁעִ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה וְתֵ֣שַׁע שָׁנִ֑ים וַיֵּרָ֨א ה' אֶל־אַבְרָ֗ם וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלָיו֙ אֲנִי־אֵ֣-ל שַׁדַּ֔י הִתְהַלֵּ֥ךְ לְפָנַ֖י וֶהְיֵ֥ה תָמִֽים׃ וְאֶתְּנָ֥ה בְרִיתִ֖י בֵּינִ֣י וּבֵינֶ֑ךָ וְאַרְבֶּ֥ה אוֹתְךָ֖ בִּמְאֹ֥ד מְאֹֽד׃ וַיִּפֹּ֥ל אַבְרָ֖ם עַל־פָּנָ֑יו וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר אִתּ֛וֹ אֱלֹק֖ים לֵאמֹֽר׃ אֲנִ֕י הִנֵּ֥ה בְרִיתִ֖י אִתָּ֑ךְ וְהָיִ֕יתָ לְאַ֖ב הֲמ֥וֹן גּוֹיִֽם׃ וְלֹא־יִקָּרֵ֥א ע֛וֹד אֶת־שִׁמְךָ֖ אַבְרָ֑ם וְהָיָ֤ה שִׁמְךָ֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם כִּ֛י אַב־הֲמ֥וֹן גּוֹיִ֖ם נְתַתִּֽיךָ׃ וְהִפְרֵתִ֤י אֹֽתְךָ֙ בִּמְאֹ֣ד מְאֹ֔ד וּנְתַתִּ֖יךָ לְגוֹיִ֑ם וּמְלָכִ֖ים מִמְּךָ֥ יֵצֵֽאוּ׃ וַהֲקִמֹתִ֨י אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֜י בֵּינִ֣י וּבֵינֶ֗ךָ וּבֵ֨ין זַרְעֲךָ֧ אַחֲרֶ֛יךָ לְדֹרֹתָ֖ם לִבְרִ֣ית עוֹלָ֑ם לִהְי֤וֹת לְךָ֙ לֵֽאלֹקים וּֽלְזַרְעֲךָ֖ אַחֲרֶֽיךָ׃ וְנָתַתִּ֣י לְ֠ךָ וּלְזַרְעֲךָ֨ אַחֲרֶ֜יךָ אֵ֣ת ׀ אֶ֣רֶץ מְגֻרֶ֗יךָ אֵ֚ת כָּל־אֶ֣רֶץ כְּנַ֔עַן לַאֲחֻזַּ֖ת עוֹלָ֑ם וְהָיִ֥יתִי לָהֶ֖ם לֵאלֹקים׃ וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֱלֹקים֙ אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֔ם וְאַתָּ֖ה אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֣י תִשְׁמֹ֑ר אַתָּ֛ה וְזַרְעֲךָ֥ אַֽחֲרֶ֖יךָ לְדֹרֹתָֽם׃ זֹ֣את בְּרִיתִ֞י אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּשְׁמְר֗וּ בֵּינִי֙ וּבֵ֣ינֵיכֶ֔ם וּבֵ֥ין זַרְעֲךָ֖ אַחֲרֶ֑יךָ הִמּ֥וֹל לָכֶ֖ם כָּל־זָכָֽר׃ וּנְמַלְתֶּ֕ם אֵ֖ת בְּשַׂ֣ר עָרְלַתְכֶ֑ם וְהָיָה֙ לְא֣וֹת בְּרִ֔ית בֵּינִ֖י וּבֵינֵיכֶֽם׃

"When Abram was ninety-nine years old, Hashem appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am E-l Shaddai. Walk in My ways and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will make you exceedingly numerous". Abram threw himself on his face; and G-d spoke to him further, As for Me, this is My covenant with you: You shall be the father of a multitude of nations. And you shall no longer be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I make you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fertile and make nations of you; and kings shall come forth from you. I will maintain My covenant between Me and you, and your offspring to come, as an everlasting covenant throughout the ages, to be G-d to you and to your offspring to come. I assign the land you sojourn in to you and your offspring to come, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting holding. I will be their G-d". G-d further said to Abraham, “As for you, you and your offspring to come throughout the ages shall keep My covenant. Such shall be the covenant between Me and you and your offspring to follow which you shall keep: every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you." (Bereshit 17:1-11).

The commentaries were divided in the interpretation of the meaning of the imperative 'and be blameless ' in the context of the circumcision. The Ibn Ezra interpreted: "And be naive – do not ask what the circumcision is for" (ibid), which will accept the Divine imperative for the circumcision with full confidence that the act is correct, even if human reasoning does not fully understand.

The "innocence" in this context is a trust in the Almighty whose command is due to the absolute truth, and a belief in the purity of his 'motive's; that this is not an arbitrary imperative, and no foreign motives are involved, G-d forbid.

"Rabbi Simlai continued: …“A Psalm of David. Lord, who shall sojourn in Your Tabernacle? Who shall dwell upon Your sacred mountain? He who walks wholeheartedly, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heartThe Gemara analyzes these verses: “He who walks wholeheartedly”; this is referring to one who conducts himself like our forefather Abraham, as it is written concerning him: “Walk before Me and be wholehearted” (Bereshit 17:1). (Makkot 24a). "Interpreting the matter of innocence which would dismiss the reason and wisdom about G-d's commandments, not to ask reason and necessity for the commandment of circumcision " (Torah Temimah Bereshit 17:1).

To be 'blameless' and 'wholeheartedly' is necessary in the "Auditory Commandments" - the "laws- חֻקִּים֙" that no human being can understand with human logic, incomprehensible, like circumcision; but it is also needed in the "Rational Mitzvot" - the "rules -מִשְׁפָּטִ֔ים " that can be interpreted to a certain degree, but their existence must not be conditional on understanding the meaning of the Mitzvah. And it is as a reason (within the meaning of the verse):

יְהִֽי־לִבִּ֣י תָמִ֣ים בְּחֻקֶּ֑יךָ לְ֝מַ֗עַן לֹ֣א אֵבֽוֹשׁ׃

"May I wholeheartedly follow Your laws so that I do not come to grief". (Psalms 119:80) (Ramban ibid).

"Wholeheartedly" is a measure that should characterize the total relationship between man and G-d. It also includes the intention of the observant to do so by choosing "truth," "for its sake," and not for an external reason: "wholeheartedly" - with good intentions without ulterior motives" (Metzudat David on Psalms 119:80).

"Blameless " is a measure of the soul that is necessary for the reciprocal relationship between one and other: "And what is? That man will utter his words and negotiations without cheating, and his mouth and heart should be equal. For a hypocrite is not called blameless, but is constantly called wicked and cheater, etc… and all who walk wholeheartedly with G-d and the people, the Almighty will save them from sinning, etc. And from this fine measure came the degree of truth from the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy referred to by the Almighty, etc. (“The degrees on virtues” of the 13th century Physician Rav Yechiel).

The 'naivety' is supposed to characterize the trust to “guides”, parents and educators, where the pure truth without external influences is what motivates them. The instructor’s responsibility is what makes them conduct themselves in a way that does not crack the trust given to them and does not unravel naivety.

In the further circles of human interaction, innocence must also be equipped with a defense mechanism against those who might exploit it in a cynical, cunning and speculative way. And share a certain amount of suspicion and criticism with it.

It is told of one who came to the “Chafetz Chaim” and complained about his business partner who cheated on him and took advantage of his naivety. The Chafetz Chaim asked him why he had not tested and examined the conduct of his partner so he would not deceive him. And he answered because it might be contrary to the commandment: “You must be wholehearted with Hashem your G-d”.

תָּמִ֣ים תִּֽהְיֶ֔ה עִ֖ם ה' אֱלֹקיךָ׃

And the Chafetz Chaim answered him: It is written there to be innocent with G-d, not humans!

This we learned from Jacob our forefather who was “a mild man who stayed in camp”. אִ֣ישׁ תָּ֔ם יֹשֵׁ֖ב אֹהָלִֽים׃

and whose virtue is 'truth', but when he came to the deceitful and devious Laban the Aramean, who sought to exploit his innocence, he had to counter him.

When Rachel warned him of her father's plan: “Jacob said to her: What is his method of deceit of which I need be aware? Rachel said to him: I have a sister who is older than me, and he will not marry me off before he marries her off, even if he promises that he will do so. Jacob said to her: I am his brother, i.e., equal, in deceit, and he will not be able to deceive me. That is why Jacob said that he was “her father’s brother.” Rachel said to him: But is it permitted for the righteous to act deceitfully? Jacob answered her: Yes, in certain circumstances. As the verse states concerning God: “With the pure You show Yourself pure; and with the crooked You show Yourself subtle” (II Samuel 22:27). (Bava Batra 123a:19).

Deceiving Laban did not hurt the required 'innocence'.

In particular, things are meant for the public domain; The political and the media and other powerful and interesting public bodies for which things said, must not be treated innocently. Morning news reveal that behind-the-scenes, beautiful and 'value full' words, are sometimes hiding piquant intentions. That the 'naive' and purportedly objective introduction of facts is merely a trendy and manipulative presentation intended to serve a particular 'agenda'. And even more so, there are “Fake News” publications that are meant to be 'spins' and affect public opinion. And so, all of this should be treated with suspicion and criticism and not be accepted in 'innocence'.

Without this harming the 'innocence' where it is really needed.

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