Shiviti HaShem Lenegdi Tamid

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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by R. Aharon Ziegler

Shiviti HaShem Lenegdi Tamid” [I have set HaShem before me always] Dahvid HaMelech, according to Rav Soloveitchik is giving us in Tehilim [16:8], more than mere good advice; he is giving us a Halachik imperative.

An individual must be the same person on the street, at home, in the office, in his bedroom, and in shul as he is when he stands before HaShem in Tefillah. The Rav knew many Jews who in public were refined, upstanding, caring and generous people, but who were nasty and abusive in their in their private lives. This however, does not necessarily connote falseness. Sometimes a schism is embedded in a person’s nature; he truly has a double personality. He acts differently alone than when among people. Some people take a very long time to say the Shemoneh Esrei while they are in public, but run through it very quickly when they daven alone. This in not necessarily hypocrisy: such people are truly different people in private than they are in public.

The Rav contrasted such behavior with that of his father and grandfather. They would not stand a minute longer when reciting Shemoneh Esrei in public than they would in private. In Europe, special garments were commonly worn by rabbis in public. Yet, the Rav’s grandfather would never dress this way, since he insisted that what he wore at home must be the same as what he wore in public.

This idea is the underlying theme of the maxim, Shiviti HaShem Lenegdi Tamid. In His audience, one’s behavior must always be consistent.

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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