Contributed by: R. Eric Mizrahi
In the beginning of this weeks parasha, Shofetim, we read of three seemingly unrelated misvot:
Seek justice and justice, so that you may live and possess the land that Hashem your God is giving you. (Devarim 16:20)
Do not plant an Asherah or any tree beside the altar you build to Hashem your God, and do not erect a sacred stone, for these Hashem your God hates. (Devarim 16:21-22)
Do not sacrifice to Hashem your God an ox or a sheep that has any defect or flaw in it, for that would be detestable to Him. (Devarim 17:1)
First, we are commanded to seek justice in all that we do, especially in the appointment of our leaders, judges, and rabbis. Sedeq, Sedeq tirdof the verse repeats itself, stressing the importance of seeking justice, and not to be blind sighted by bribery, or fear, or favoritism.
Second, we are commanded not to plant any sort of tree Behar Habayit (Temple Mount), for such an action will lead to people worshipping the tree.
Third, we are commanded to not sacrifice any animal that has a blemish.
What is the connection between these misvot?
The Seforno explains the common thread between these misvot, which yields a lesson for us about Daat Torah, the philosophy and way of our Torah. These misvot are training us to prefer wholeness and completeness rather than an external beauty.
For example, although one might be inclined to hirer a judge who is charismatic, and speaks well, as opposed to a more knowledgeable yet not as witty counter part, the Torah teaches us, seek justice hire the individual who knows more and is a great scholar that can deliver justice.
Although a tree is beautiful and provides shade, planting one near the Temply Mount will cause people to worship it as Avodah Zara, we must forgo on that external beauty and do the right thing keeping our nation holy.
Although an animal might be full and beautiful, one scratch will render it a baal moum and disqualify it as a sacrifice, while a whole animal, while skinny and unattractive qualifies as a sacrifice.
Daat Torah is to prefer wholeness and completeness more than outside appearances. This holds true in our daily lives as well, in hiring employees- do we look at the external appearances, be it physical or on paper in a resume, or do we look to judge the character of the person, and opt to choose one who excels in that arena? Do we teach our kids to get through the material and then make them an nice looking siyoum or party commemorating their achievement, or do advocate steadfestness in their studies, tohav e complete knowledge on a single topic? In hiring a public speaker, are we looking for the most entertaining individual, while not paying attention to the details of the content of what was spoken about, or do we look for an individual who has deep content although his deliver is flawed?