To Be Pure, To Be Wholehearted

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by R. Eliyahu Safran

You shall be Tamim with the Lord, your God
– Devarim 18:13

Rashi interprets this verse in Devarim to mean, “Walk with Him with wholeheartedness (temimus).  Trust in what He has in store for you and do not delve into the future. But rather, whatever comes upon you accept with wholeheartedness and then you will be with Him and His portion.”  

It seems to border on the unnecessary to advise the Jew to rely upon God.  After all, isn’t that fundamental to what it means to be a Jew?  So why is this exhortation necessary?

It is important to read this pasuk (verse) in the context of the surrounding pesukim and the larger parasha.  The Jews are entering and conquering nations and peoples for whom faith in the future is not nearly as assured.  As the pasuk continues, “…these nations that you are possessing – they listen to astrologers and diviners; but as for you – not so has Hashem, your God, given for you.”

Unlike the Jews, the Gentiles of Canaan do not turn to the Creator for comfort in the face of the unknown.  These go to all kinds of necromancers and engage in all manner of witchcraft to try to discern what the future holds for them. 

Hashem does not want the Jews to mimic this false behavior.  He, of course, knows only too well the frailties and shortcomings of His creatures.  In the face of uncertainty, we quiver and quake.  The Gentiles rush to seers and necromancers.  But for Jews, the uncertainty we might feel in the future should redouble our faith in the One who has control over it.

We should have faith.

We should be tamim – pure and wholehearted in our trust in God.  We should be accepting and not anxious as we try and figure out and anticipate the future.  Such temimus encourages us to live in the moment, secure in our faith.


But who among us is so strong in our faith to live entirely in the moment?   

We have all heard the religious, and pious Jew described as a “Temimizdiger Yid”.  This high praise, this identification of a Jew with temimus derives from this pasuk in Devarim.  Tamim tiheye im Hashem Elokecha – you shall be complete, you shall be pure, you shall be wholehearted, you shall be faithful with the Lord, your God.  

Just as the darkness of night makes the brightness of the day more brilliant, this command to be “wholehearted” and pure is highlighted by resting in the midst of a number of several negative commands prohibiting a variety of immoral practices of the Gentiles.  Each of these practices is focused on discerning the future.  To be pure and wholehearted is to listen to God exhort not to look ahead, not to concern ourselves with what is to be.

What is, is more than enough.

The ideal, the tamim is so completely engrossed in God that he lives entirely in the moment, in the thought of doing His duty all the time. The tamim knows only too well that his future is completely in God’s hands, where it belongs.  He knows that the future makes a fool of even the wisest among us.  Because of this, his very purity of faith and focus serves to mock the soothsayer, astrologer, enchanter, sorcerer, charmer… that is, anyone who that consults ob or yidoni or who proposes questions unto the dead. “For whoever does these things is an abomination unto God, and as a result of these abominations God thy Lord is driving them out before you.” To be a tamim is to know that hakol bidey shomayim – that “all is in the hands God.”


But who among us can really live in the moment?

Temimus has often been held to be a quality attained only by the few tzadikim of every generation.  But God does not ask from one more than from another when it comes to matters of faith.  He does not relieve the pauper of the need from great faith nor the need of humility from the wealthy.  Temimus is a characteristic which is at the core of what it means to be genuinely Jewish. 

To be a tamim is to be a believer, and belief, faith, and trust, like love, is a binary relationship.  It is all or none.  One does not “kind of” or “sort of” love their wife.  A parent does not “mostly” trust his or her child.  And faith in God is not “sometimes” or “somewhat”.  It is all.

Or it is none.

That is true for the tzadik and it is true for the Jewish milk man, for the rebbe and the mother of six.  Faith is not the obligation or the comfort for the few in Judaism; it is the obligation and gift, the burden and the grace of every one of us.

Every morning as we prepare to declare our complete and genuine faith in God by reciting the Sh’ma Yisroel, we invoke a bracha,  “Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who forms light and creates darkness, who makes peace and creates all things.”  

The words of the Sages who authored the bracha are a variation of Isaiah 45, where the text reads Oseh shalom u’boreh rah – “Who makes peace and creates evil.” 

The Sages, in pivoting from this text, sought to highlight and to remind us that God does indeed create everything.  The tamim recognizes and acknowledges that the same God who creates the beautiful, balmy, 69-degree spring day also brings the stormy, windy, tornado of an autumn day.  The same God responsible for the glorious dawn is God who brings the darkness of night.  God not only accompanies the groom and bride to the chupah, He also walks alongside the bereaved to the grave. God is present when life begins, but He also oversees the finality of life. God produces triumphs and creates healing, but He also oversees defeat and illness. He is borei et hakol – Creator of all things.  Unless a Jew is ready, willing, and able to embrace this statement of fact, the recitation of the Hashem Echad – “God is One” in the Sh’ma represents a fraudulent and false expression. 

It is no wonder then, that the bracha of Dayan Ha’emet is recited at the very moment when grief and emotional pain prompts an inner, instinctual desire to deny that truth.  Yet it is at that very moment when it is most essential that we be reminded that He is the Justice of Truth, and we manifest this truth far rending our garment.

A Jew’s faith must be complete. We believe that God “is the Creator and Ruler of all created things, and that He alone has made, does make, and ever will make all things.”  There are no exceptions! We believe that all the words of the Prophets are true.  No edits, no amendments!  We believe that the whole Torah which we now possess is the same which was given to Moses our Teacher.  No additions or subtractions. 

We believe that this Torah will not be changed, and that there will be no other Torah given by the Creator.  

We believe.

If we are tamim, we believe that no individual, no group, ideology, convention, or resolution can in any way shape or form change even an iota of Torah law. 

We believe.

We believe that the Creator knows all the actions and thoughts of human beings.

We believe.

This, the tenth of Maimonides’ thirteen principles, summarizes the attribute of temimus, stated in the verse.  Tamim tiheye im Hashem Elokecha.  The meaning, the Rambam explains, is that we are to direct our hearts to Him only and believe that He alone does everything. It is He who knows the truth about all future events.

Without uncertainty, there is no need for faith.

To try and “undo” uncertainty – to try and discern the future – is to undermine faith.

The Chassidic Master, Reb Pinchas of Kuritz points out that no other mitzvah or Jewish observance needs to be observed “with God your Lord,” as stated in regard to temimus, “Complete shall you be with the God your Lord.”  Reb Pinchas relates that the only exception relates to modesty, where the prophet teaches to be “modest with the Lord your God.” Why? Because in regard to these two humans, religious, ethical attributes – temimus and modesty – we can easily deceive our fellow human beings.  It is easy to appear to be wholehearted; it is easy to appear to embrace modesty even as lack of faith and immodesty fills the heart.  There are Jews who create a face of being genuinely temimim; everything about them seems so rigorous and pious.  But beneath the surface they are deceitful, cynical and challenging individuals. There are Jews who insist that they want no part of kavod, recognition or gratitude. They insist that everything they do is for God, the community, the shul, klal Yisrael but when you indeed believe them and grant them only minimal kavod they go home and rage, never to forgive you.

Who, then, knows the truth? The answer should be obvious to each and every Jew.  Hashem Elokecha – the Lord your God. He is the Bochen Levavot. He really knows vos s’tutzech in yenem’s kishkes We see only the surface; God sees into our hearts and souls.  

So, says Reb Pinchas of Kuritz, to really be a believer, a man of faith, a trusting Jew, and a modest individual, it must be with Hashem Elokecha, with the Lord your God.  Only God matters.

The rest of us are simply too easily fooled.


About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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