Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chofetz Chaim and Weights and Measures

"Lo sa'asu avel bamishpat; bamidah bamishkal, uvamesurah. Moznei tzedek avnei tzeddek aivas tzeddek v'hin tzeddek y'hiyeh lachem..."

This week's double parsha, parshas acharei-kedoshim, deals with the commandment of having correct scales, measures and weights in one's business dealings. "You shall not commit a perversion of justice" in this regard. And this is the parsha of the Chofetz Chaim. The Chofetz Chaim's first published work was an anonymous pamphlet regarding correct scales and measures after he witnessed improprieties at the local markets on a regular basis.

At one point, the Chofetz Chaim and his wife opened a grocery store to bring in some money. To say that the Chofetz Chaim was scrupulous in his business dealings would be an understatement. One day, after he had sold some small measured packets of salt, he noticed that the scales were a bit off. Not knowing exactly who had been "cheated," he went around town giving tiny packets of salt to anyone and everyone he came into contact with on the streets. His philosophy was that when he passes on, and is being judged on high, he needs that extra little bit of salt to tip the scales in his favor; because he had no degree of gaivah (haughtiness), but only self-negation. When he learned in yeshiva as a bachor he would leave the beis midrash (study hall) each day for set period of time. Nobody knew exactly where he went, but many were curious. One day, a small group followed him into the woods. They saw him standing over a ditch, and heard the following: "So Yisroel Meir. You learn for a few hours and you think that you're somebody? Keep this up, and you will end up right there, down in that ditch."

On another occasion, a woman had come in to buy a few items including a herring. She forgot the herring in the store, but upon discovery, the Chofetz Chaim could not remember the exact person that left behind the fish. To make sure to pay this person back he gave everyone that walked into the store during the next few days a free herring.

And speaking of weights and measures, when the Belzer Rebbe met the Chofetz Chaim during the latter's historic trip to Warsaw to meet with the Prime Minister, at the Chofetz Chaim's general understatement the Belzer Rebbe remarked in private, "he has golden scales in his mouth, and he weighs every single word carefully before he speaks."

And speaking of weights and measures one more time, the Vilna Gaon authored a musar sefer (book on ethics) called Even Shleima. Many wonder what the significance of this name is. The Vilna Gaon asked where his name appears in the Torah. He found it in parshas ki seitzei, which also speaks of weights and measures. The words Even Shleima spell out Eliyahu ben Shlomo.

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