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The Truth About the Truth - Part 2

by Rabbi Ephraim Eliyahu Shapiro on behalf of the Sefas Tamim Foundation

I am grateful to the Sefas Tamim Foundation for giving me the opportunity, through a series of articles, to address the topic of Emes and Yashrus. We have tremendous gratitude to this organization, for bringing a heightened awareness about these incredibly important Middos to Klal Yisrael. B’ezras Hashem, through the work of the Sefas Tamim Foundation, we should indeed become far more meticulous in these Middos. In our last article, we discussed the importance of living a life of Emes, and the pitfalls of mixing even small parts of Sheker with Emes. In this week’s presentation, we discuss how to become an Ish Emes – a person of truth.

Becoming an Ish Emes is a very achievable, practical and pragmatic goal. The Possuk at the end of Parshas Yisro says: “V’lo Tsaleh B’maalos Al Mizbachi” – do not ascend the Mizbeach with stairs. Instead, the Torah instructs us to reach the Mizbeach via a ramp. My father, HaRav Mordechai Shapiro ZT’L relates a beautiful explanation of this command.

How is a step constructed? There is a part of the step that can be used to ascend or descend. There is also the middle, level part of the step - the platform part of the step. That platform part represents a person stagnating, remaining the same - without spiritual growth. My father explained the Possuk so beautifully. When each of us aspires to ascend our personal Mizbeach and to become a Ben or Bas Ailyah, we should not ascend in the fashion of a step. A step represents up, down, and level stagnation in the middle - the platform part of the step.

Build your personal Mizbeach with a ramp. A ramp represents incremental and consistent growth. With a ramp, there is no area to plateau, to stagnate, to remain the same. A ramp is the ultimate way we reach the top of our Mizbeach – improving gradually and continuously.

That is ultimately, how we become an Ish Emes!

The letters in the word “Yisrael” – Yud, Shin, Resh, Aleph, Lamed represent Yesh Shishim Ribui Asiyos L’Torah. There are 600,000 letters in the Torah, corresponding to the 600,000 Jewish Neshamos that were present at Har Sinai.

However, if you count the letters in the Torah, this is simply not accurate. There are approximately half that number - approximately 300,000 letters in the Torah. The Shefa Chaim, the Klausenberger Rebbe relates an inspiring explanation. We know that if two letters in the Sefer Torah touch each other, the Torah is not kosher. You must have a space between every letter. If you have 300,000 letters and they cannot touch each other, then you have 300,000 spaces. When you add up the letters and spaces you have a total of 600,000, which corresponds to the number of Neshamos in Klal Yisrael present at Har Sinai. Days in which we conduct ourselves with Emes and integrity, we are represented by a beautiful, shining Torah letter. On days in which we make mistakes, we may only be represented by a space in the Torah. The reality is, that this is the make-up of Klal Yisroel - each Yid has letters and spaces.

Although today we are represented by a space in the Torah, it does not mean that tomorrow we cannot change and become a shining Torah letter. Sometimes we go through periods when we feel that we have failed. Perhaps we are not behaving properly - not being exactly truthful to others or to ourselves. Today we are represented only by a space. B’ezras Hashem, today's space can be tomorrow's letter. We can improve.

The way to improve - to be more honest, as we ascend our personal Mizbeach – is to take gradual, consistent steps. Let us be more careful each day in choosing our words to ensure that they are truthful. We must keep every commitment we make.

When we reach the top of our respective ramps and attain our goals, acting with consistency and honesty, we can earn one of the highest accolades. We can achieve – “Tocho K’baro” a sincere honest person who is the same “Tocho” – on the inside, as “K’baro” as on the outside. We act consistently, with Emes and Yashrus, on the inside – internally in our homes and with our families, as we act on the outside - with our friends, community and in business.

The ‘inside’ letters of the word “Tocho” are Vav and Chof, with a gematria of 26. The ‘outside’ letters of the word “K’baro” are Chof and Vav, with a gematria of 26. The gematria of Hashem’s name (Yud Kei Vav Kei) is 26. To reach the lofty levels of honesty and sincerity inherent in “Tocho K’baro”, we must always be cognizant of Hashem’s presence when we are ‘inside’ and when we are ‘outside’!

When we internalize the concept that Hashem is always watching us, it compels us to act with honesty and integrity in every internal, private matter and every external, public situation.

In our next article, we will discuss how being honest and truthful can enhance Kovod Shamayim – the glory of Hashem and discuss our related obligations. The Sefas Tamim Foundation’s mission is to underscore the importance of living a life of 100% Emes through the learning of Halahca, Mussar, and Chizuk. For further information regarding the Sefas Tamim Foundation or to subscribe to its weekly newsletter, please contact Boruch Delman at 718-200-5462 or


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