Tamim Tihyeh Im Hashem Elokecha Avi Finkelstein


There is a puzzling phrase in Parashat Shofetim: “Tamim Tihyeh Im Hashem Elokecha,” “Be wholehearted with Hashem your God” (Devarim 18:13). What exactly does this Pasuk mean? What are we to make of this requirement? How are we to fulfill this biblical commandment of being “wholehearted” with Hashem?

The Alshich HaKadosh explains that the verse is referring to the way one acts when nobody is around. If one’s actions change when there is no longer an audience, then one can determine if he/she acts truly for The Almighty or if, Chas VeShalom, there are other motives involved. The Alshich HaKadosh writes that the Pasuk requires us to be wholehearted and sincere with Hashem. We must hold ourselves to the same standards wherever we are, and not serve Hashem in public merely to gain recognition or respect.

Rav Mendel of Kotzk comments that not only must a person’s actions be consistent, but his/her motives must be unchanging as well. While the Alshich HaKadosh focuses on how a person’s actions change based on the setting, the Kotzker Rebbe highlights the fact that, in any setting, a person’s purpose for serving Hashem can be fragmented. If one sees that sometimes he/she guards the Mitzvot and keeps the Torah for reasons other than the fact that Hashem commanded him/her to do so, then he/she violates “Tamim Tihyeh.”

Rav Dr. Abraham Twerski points out that these two approaches complement each other . He writes that one who observes the Torah only in the presence of others, but when in complete privacy transgress the Torah (like the Alshich’s example), is really not devoted to God. Rather, his public observance of the Mitzvot is self-serving (like the Kotzker Rebbe’s example).

The Kotzker Rebbe’s commentary on our Pasuk goes on to say that everything we do should be out of devotion to God. Ideally, one should eat and sleep with the hope that the energy he/she is gaining is necessary to better serve Hashem.

Rav Twerski offers an alternative interpretation of the word “Tamim.” He describes Tamim as a state of perfection. Rav Twerski beautifully combines all three points by saying that if one truly serves Hashem for the proper reasons and is consistent in those motives, only then can he/she achieve the ultimate Torah goal – a perfect relationship with Hashem.

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