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Thought for the Day: Honesty and Integrity Defines the Person

A good friend of mine made a siyum on Bava Kamma recently.  He made a beautiful observation based on seemingly small question on the last mishna, that revealed a fundamental guiding principle of life.  I was paying attention for three reasons.  First, he is generally quiet and only speaks up when he has something important to say.  Second, I am also learning Bava Kamma, so I knew something of the subject matter.  Finally, because the last mishna discusses a stone cutter and my great-grandfather (mother's father's father) actually was a stone cutter.  (Talk about yichus, eh?)

So the mishna discusses who owns the chips that a stone cutter produces in his work.  The question was simply, "Really?  The whole masechta is about property damage and payment obligations.  Big stuff: killing cattle, burning fields, destroying a whole store, etc.  The masechta really wants to end up on the whimper of who owns the little chips of stone that probably nobody wants anyways??"

I know a lot of people who would have just chalked it up to the gemara being the gemara.  But he didn't; he went searching for an explanation.  What he found was a M'eiri; last one on the masechta.
There is a tremendous fundamental principle at work here.  One must be scrupulous in doing business faithfully and with integrity, for a person has nothing except the good name that accrues to him from his deeds and actions; which testify about him in this world and the next.
That's big stuff.

Now, in order to make this other than just total plagiarism,  I will point out something I noticed about how Moshe Rabeinu came to be the manhig yisrael; something I noticed while still mulling over that M'eiri.  Just before HaShem reveals Himself to Moshe Rabeinu in the guise of the burning bush, the Torah tells us that Moshe was shepherding his father-in-law's flocks out in the wilderness.  Rashi explains that the Torah is telling us how honest Moshe Rabeinu is; he is being careful to go far enough away that there is no worry of grazing on someone's property.  The message of the juxtaposition of the p'sukim is clear: Moshe was scrupulously honest in his dealings with his fellow man, and therefore merited divine revelation and to become Moshe Rabeinu.

R' Yaakov Kamenetzky used to say, "For big people, there are no small matters."


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