Psalms – Chapter 15

Eleven Things

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

According to the Talmud in Makkos (24a), this Psalm enumerates eleven traits to emulate. We indicate them here by number:

David asks G-d who is worthy to dwell in His Temple. He goes on to define such a person. He (1) walks in innocence, (2) does the right thing, (3) speaks truthfully and sincerely, (4) shuns deceit, (5) does not do a disservice to his fellow man, (6) makes his family proud, (7) despises evil, (8) honors the righteous, (9) keeps his word, even when it is to his own detriment to do so, (10) refuses to lend with interest, even to non-Jews, and (11) refuses to accept a gift that could affect his impartiality. A person who pursues even one of these traits will not come to sin.

The Talmud (ibid.) gives examples of people who personified each of these characteristics. For example, Rav Safra is the personification of “speak truthfully and sincerely.” He once turned down a higher offer to purchase some merchandise because he had already mentally agreed to accept a lower price. R. Yishmael b. Rebbe Yossi exemplifies “refusing to accept a gift that could affect impartiality.” His sharecropper once came to him for judgment and brought along R. Yishmael’s produce from the field. He declined to accept it a day early, even though it rightfully belonged to him, lest it color his impartiality. (See there for other examples.)

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