“He does not reject evil.” (36:5)
It is not enough to passively avoid evil. If your friends are doing bad things and you close your eyes, you become a party to it. Shetika k’hoda’ah dama’i, silence is the equivalent of consent. Edmund Burke said, “As the great parliamentarian Political philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people*] to do nothing.” If you hear a racist/sexist/homophobic joke, the only acceptable response is to reprove the teller. You don’t need to shout. You need only to clearly and calmly state your objection.
*actual quotation, “men”
“Pay them according to their deeds.” (28:4)
Reward and punishment do not always work out perfectly. Sometimes, good people do not prosper and evil people do not suffer. However, most of the time, in the long run, goodness is recognized. People are attracted to good people. They will have better and deeper friendships. Good people will tend to be happier and more satisfied with their lives. Truly good people do not do good things because of recognition or reward. Goodness is not a tool to be used as a means to get something. Good deeds are an end unto themselves.
“May integrity and uprightness watch over me” (25:21)
We need that little voice to whisper in our ear when we are tempted to stray from the path of goodness and righteousness. When no one is watching, it is easy to talk ourselves into taking shortcuts, eating unwisely, and letting loose our selfish inclinations. We need to listen to the still, small, voice of our conscience telling us that even if no one else knows, we know whether we live with integrity or not. And when we succumb and habituate ourselves to giving in to evil in private, it will infect our public lives as well.
“My heart is like wax.” (22:15)
In the Psalm, the melting wax heart denotes weakness. But taken in and of itself, a wax heart is the opposite of a hard heart. Rather than being hard-hearted and stubborn, isn’t it better to have a sensitive malleable heart? A hard-hearted person thinks of himself or herself first. Do these people really need my help? Why should I be the one to step in? How will I benefit? A soft-hearted person thinks of others first and looks for ways to ease their suffering. A heart of wax is the price we pay for being vulnerable and allowing ourselves to feel.
“You have set upon his head a crown of fine gold.” (21:4)
We might understand the function of a kippah to be a mark of identification as a Jew and a reminder to the wearer of his or her Jewish responsibilities. A gold crown is a kippah, a thousand times heavier. Every person wears a crown denoting him or her as a being created in the image of God. It’s the ultimate participation trophy, with a twist. The crown is a weighty burden that functions as a constant reminder to live up to the responsibility and privilege of being human.