תוֹם – Seeing Through the Lens of Integrity

through the lens of integrity
Seeing through the lens of integrity

“Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: “This is what the Lord commands: When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.” Numbers 30:1-2

Today I asked my husband for a word to explore in Hebrew. His answer was, “integrity.” If I were to choose a word to sum up his character, integrity would fit the bill. So this one is for him.

According to Wikipedia, integrity is the basing of one’s actions on an internally consistent framework of principles.

Our Hebrew word is תוֹם. It is pronounced tome. In the Jewish mindset, integrity is linked to wholeness and perfection.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg posits the following: Imagine you’re successful, rich and famous. You’re on vacation with friends when suddenly terrorists burst into your room, hold a gun to your head and say: “Tell us where your friends are and we’ll release you safely. Otherwise we’ll kill you.”

What do you do?

In Jewish thought, there are three fundamental principles upon which the world stands. They are truth (emet in Hebrew), justice (tzedek) and peace (shalom).

The Talmud tells us: “The signature of the Holy one, blessed be He, is truth.” So together, the three great principles of Judaism come together to form integrity.

But what happens when we fail our integrity? We make a vow (or promise or commitment) to something or someone, but we don’t carry through. Real life interferes, and we fall short of what we had planned. God is very serious about vows, as the book of Numbers shows us.

Remember the story of the Isra’elites right after they’ve defeated Ai and destroyed the city? Some men from a neighboring tribe deceive Joshua and the elders by feigning having come from a foreign country and asking them to enter into a covenant so that the army of Isra’el won’t kill them. Of course, it turns out that although God had told Joshua not to make a covenant with the people who lived in the land, He nevertheless considers their vow made in His name to be valid. The “foreigners” end up as slaves to the Isra’elites (which for them is assuredly better than the death of their nation).

God expects total integrity in our walk. But He also knows our human frailty and forgives. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

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