“Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.” — 1 Samuel 12:3
The Torah portion for this week is Korach, which means “Korah,” from Numbers 16:1–18:32, and the Haftorah is from 1 Samuel 11:14–12:22.
“Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!” Remember that show? It involved hidden cameras filming ordinary people being confronted with unusual situations and capturing their reactions. Once the practical joke was completed, the victim would be let in on the secret when a participant would yell, “Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!” Though entertaining, this show left many victims feeling cheated. Had they known they were being filmed, they would have acted very differently!
In this week’s Haftorah we read about the anointing of Saul as Israel’s first king and what seems like the end of Samuel the prophet. Certainly, Samuel felt that his end was near. This prompted him to ask the people if he had ever done anything wrong as their leader: “ . . . Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe . . . If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.” Samuel wanted to right any wrongs. He wanted to pass in peace and with a clear conscience.
The people responded that Samuel had never done anything wrong to them. He was a leader par excellence – he took no bribes or had any personal gain because of his position. He was a servant of the people through and through. This is how the Haftorah connects to this week’s Torah reading. In spite of Korah’s allegations against Moses, Moses demonstrated that he always had the people’s interest at heart. He never took a single thing that didn’t belong to him, and he was not motivated by personal gain. He, too, had a clear conscience.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have the same kind of peace of mind that Moses and Samuel had? They knew that when their time came, they would be judged, and they made it their business to keep themselves free of sin. The Jewish sages teach, “Reflect on three things and you will never come to sin: Know what is above you — a seeing eye, a hearing ear, and all your deeds are recorded in a book.” If we want to keep ourselves free of sin, it helps to realize that everything we say and do is being recorded.
Smile! Because you are on camera! God is watching and paying attention. While this can be intimidating, it can also be empowering. It keeps us in check, on the right path, and can protect us from making grave mistakes.
Try this exercise: For one day, imagine that your life is being broadcast on national television. What difference would that make in what you say, what you do, and how you conduct your day-to-day activities?
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President