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Re'eh : Staying on the Path of Yashar

08/14/2020 10:09:06 AM


Rabbi Yosef Weinstock

As a summation to various rules that were just mentioned, Moshe says: 12:28:
“ Ki Taaseh Hatov V’hayashar b’eynei Hashem.”
“When you do what is good and right in the eyes of Hashem your G-d.”
Noting the dual terminology of Tov and Yashar, Rashi quotes the opinion of Rabbi Akiva in the Midrash:
“Hatov- beinay Shamayim. V’hayashar- Beinay Adam.”

In our lives we must be cognizant of two barometers on which we must test our actions: One of those barometers is expected to be stated in the Torah: how does it look in the eyes of G-d? What is more surprising is that Rabbi Akiva suggests that we concern ourselves with how our actions our perceived by others. This may lead to some very valid questions. Such as: does this statement of Rabbi Akiva recognize the possibility that what is right according to G-d may not be in consonance with popular culture or conventional wisdom? And in such a scenario, which value wins out?

As we strive to do what the Torah demands of us, we must strive to do so in a manner that is Yashar b’einay Adam, pleasing and attractive and inspiring to those who are watching us. It may not always be possible, but it is a value that we must always consider.

And we must be harder on ourselves than we are on others. When considering what is Tov B’einay Hashem we must factor in how this will be perceived by others. But such is not the case when dealing with ourselves. Even if we take seriously other people’s perspectives, we must always remember that our eyes may be deceived. It is possible for self-interests to lead us to self-righteousness. If there is tension between what is Tov B’einey Hashem and Yashar B’eineinu, when we are confronted with the possibility that our actions or values may not be consistent with what the Torah expects of us, then we must be willing to think deeply and seriously and consider reevaluating our position. Perhaps this is why the last time “Yashar” is mentioned in our Parsha (13:9), Moshe charges us to do simply do that which is Yashar B’einay Hashem. For our actions must be in consonance with the objective values and morals that the Torah has taught us are the correct way to live.

When it comes to doing what is Yashar, I wish it was as easy as the Israeli direction-giver’s advice- Yashar Yashar Yashar ad Hasof. But seeking spiritual direction is not that easy. 

Our Pasuk in Re’eh exhorts us to do the Tov and Yashar. A couple weeks ago in Vaetchanan we were told to do Hayashar V’Hatov. And in that context Ramban points out that the Torah can’t give us exact directions for every situation in life. We have to think seriously and do our best and pray that by going Yashar Hashem will help us reach our sought-after destination.      

Wed, October 28 2020 10 Cheshvan 5781