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Fearing God while interacting with others

Rabbi Diana Villa
| 01/05/2022

This week’s Parasha, Kedoshim, includes the very famous adage, “Do not place a stumbling block in front of a blind person” (Lev. 19:14). Rabbi Diana Villa, lecturer of Talmud and Jewish Law at the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, gives us examples of the deeper meaning, beyond the literal notion of placing an item in front of a person who cannot see. We should not misguide someone intentionally. We must fear God. Read the article or watch the video to understand why exactly we should fear God in a situation like this.

Watch the video and read the article:

We are going to read Parashat Kedoshim this Shabbat. There is a verse there that says, “you shall not insult the deaf or place a stumbling block before the blind. You shall fear your God, I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:14). A few chapters later it says, “do not wrong one another but fear your God for I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 25:17). The Gemara asks what kind of damage are we talking about here? What is the wrong that is being done? Because there is a wrong that we can do by making somebody have material damage or you can also wrong a person by causing them spiritual damage.  

The examples that the Talmud brings are, for example, somebody who wants to buy food for his asses. He is told to go to a certain place when the person who gives the advice knows very well that there is no food for the asses there. 

Another example is somebody who makes believes that he wants to buy something in a store. He looks at all the products while he actually has no money on him. The seller is expecting to make a sale, so in the end, the false buyer is making the seller go through some kind of suffering as well. 

The rabbis ask which is worse to cause a verbal wrong or to go cause a physical wrong and physical damage? They say that actually, it is even worse to cause this kind of verbal wrong or verbal oppression because there is no way to take it back. The person is being affected and it’s not only a question of the money. 

Why do the verses speak about being fearful of God when someone does this kind of transgression? The rabbis in the Talmud answer: Because the person whom you are doing this to does not know what your real intentions are. When you look at it from the outside, it seems like you may have really expected to buy something, or you really thought that that person was selling food for the asses. However, God knows what is in your heart and that is why it says you should fear God. God knows whether your intentions are true or whether you are just making the other person have false expectations for no reason hence we have this expression when you do these things remember that you should fear God. 

Shavua Tov from Schechter

**Beginning immediately after Pesach and until August, Parashat Hashavua in the Diaspora is one week ‘behind’ the Parasha in Israel. Shavua Tov@Schechter will follow the Diaspora schedule.

Diana Villa lectures at the Schechter Rabbinical School. A native of Argentina, she has degrees in Philosophy, Jewish Philosophy, Psychology and Talmud as well as rabbinic ordination. Rabbi Villa was a researcher at the Center for Women in Jewish Law, where she co-authored two books on halakhic solutions to the agunah problem and responsa on current issues. She represents The Schechter Institute at I.C.A.R. (International Coalition for Agunah Rights), and is a member of the steering committee and the Committee on Jewish Law of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel. She is the proud mother of one daughter and twin granddaughters.

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