The Gemara in Masechet Yoma (72b) contains the famous dictum of Rava that a Talmid Chacham is not truly a Talmid Chacham unless he has the characteristic of “Tocho KeVaro,” his inside matches his outside. It is very important to perform actions with sincere intent, to ensure that our Mitzvot are not just a reflection of the outside world, but an emanation of our inner beliefs. This theme can be found prominently in Parashat Naso.
After Moshe counts the Levi’im and assigns them their tasks, Hashem issues him a new command. He is to instruct Bnei Yisrael to remove impure individuals from their camps. As the Pasuk states, “VaYa’asu Chein Bnei Yisrael VaYeshalechu Otam El MiChutz LaMachaneh KaAsher Diber Hashem El Moshe Kein Asu Bnei Yisrael” “And Bnei Yisrael did so: They expelled them to the outside of the camp; in the way Hashem had spoken to Moshe, so Bnei Yisrael did” (BeMidbar 5:4). The repetition of the fulfillment of this command indicates that Bnei Yisrael were extremely eager to fulfill the Mitzvah of chasing away their impure brethren. While the Zerizut with which Bnei Yisrael performed the commandment is certainly admirable, it is also somewhat troubling: why would the Jews choose specifically this Mitzvah to carry out so zealously? Perhaps their intentions were somewhat improper. All too often, people take any opportunity they can to drive people away, even sometimes to elevate themselves. However, on a simple level, it still appears as though Bnei Yisrael were merely eager to fulfill the will of Hashem.
The Pesukim following this incident may give more of an indication as to the attitude of the Jewish people. Hashem tells the nation, via Moshe, of the punishment given to an admitted thief. However, a key qualification appears amidst this Mitzvah: if the victim of the robbery has died and there are no relatives alive to whom the debt can be returned, the thief must pay that value “LaShem LaKohein,” “To Hashem, to the Kohein” (5:8). Rashi explains that the victim in this situation must be a Geir, convert, because any other Jew would have relatives—and, thus, inheritors—of some sort. The Geir, sometimes, is one of the most exploited members of society. Bnei Yisrael, in their haste to isolate those outsiders who are impure, may overlook the rights of the Geir. The Pasuk tells us otherwise: not only is the Geir protected, but he is defended by Hashem. God’s intentions, not just words, must be at the forefront of all our thoughts. Although the eager Bnei Yisrael would most likely not steal from their fellows, they may be more likely to steal from a Geir, in their misguided attempt at purifying the camp. It is essential that they keep Hashem’s will as the foremost consideration in their activities.
The next section in the Parashah, that of the Ishah Sotah, is connected directly to the discussion of Tocho KeVaro. The root of the word “Me’ilah,” sometimes defined as treachery or trespass, which is first written in the aforementioned section about robbery, reappears in this topic of an unfaithful wife and jealous husband. Clearly, the Torah wishes to establish a connection between the two areas. Perhaps the same message is conveyed in this tragic section of the Torah, although in a reversed manner. The previous section discussed people who are far more concerned with their external appearances than their internal ones. However, Ishah Sotah can, very often, be a situation in which a wife was not guilty of sin, but was merely spotted in an improper situation with a man, despite being warned against meeting that individual. Although the wife may be completely innocent, her appearance in that situation was improper. This is the other extension of Tocho KeVaro. Although one’s intentions may be pure at heart, one also has to make sure one’s appearances are in order. In the case of Ishah Sotah, the outside must match the inside, whereas in the previous cases, the reverse was the necessary element.
The Parashah continues with the instructions of Nezirut, which further develop this theme of Tocho KeVaro. Many commentators have grappled with the question of why the sections of Nezirut and Sotah are juxtaposed; what does a possibly unfaithful wife have to do with a person’s taking vows to abstain from wine and haircuts? One classic answer, which Rashi quotes from the Gemara (Sotah 2a), is that one who sees the case of a Sotah should be inspired to abstain from wine, which often provokes lechery. Certainly, Nezirut appears to be a noble undertaking. However, the Pesukim in the section seem to indicate a degree of wrongdoing. In the event that a Nazir, even accidentally, comes in contact with a corpse, he must bring a Korban, which the Kohen uses for the purpose of “VeChiper Alav MeiAsher Chata Al HaNefesh,” “And he shall provide him atonement for having sinned regarding the person” (6:11). Coming in contact with a dead body can hardly be considered an Aveirah, so why does the Pasuk use the word “Chata”? Rav Elazar HaKapar, quoting Rebi, answers that one who abstains himself from wine is called a sinner (Masechet Ta’anit 11a). If Nezirut is considered good and proper, how can it still be a sin? This, too, is a reflection of the issue of Tocho KeVaro. If the Nazir truly feels he must not have physical pleasure in order to stop sinning, it is the correct course of action to take. However, if the vow is undertaken insincerely, the person has actually sinned by subjecting himself to physical displeasure. One’s thoughts and actions must mirror one another; Mitzvot must be done sincerely.
As we approach Shavuot, many of us will stay up late at night, learning Torah. This is truly a wonderful time for the spread of Torah and personal growth. However, we must be sure we are staying up for the right reasons. Just as Bnei Yisrael may have been overzealous in their expulsion of the impure people, the Pasuk warns us not to be inconsistent between our intentions and our actions. Though learning all night is a tremendous accomplishment, many of us might benefit more from getting some sleep and then learning later in the day. Hopefully, we will all have a Chag filled with learning, and attempt to ensure that our insides and outsides are in harmony.