“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”
“Let them be as chaff in the wind.” (35:5)
A person who has no strong ideas, beliefs, opinions, or goals avoids a great deal of conflict. It can be wonderfully stress-free just to be agreeable to whatever. If the breezes of public opinion change, you change. No intense thought needed, no great conflict generated. However, remember the rule of the kite! In order for the kite to stay aloft, it needs to resist the wind. In order for you to reach your full human potential, you need to set a goal and embrace a set of core beliefs that will guide your life. During the difficult moments, your core beliefs will lift keep you rising and moving forward.
“… to cut off their memory from the earth. (34:17)
When I get to the end of my life, I’d like to have made a difference. I know it’s not reasonable to think that 50 years after my death that I will be remembered as anything other than a name, and after another 50 years, probably not even that, so my goal is more modest. I’d like to be remembered for something for a generation or two. Having children is one way to guarantee that your memory will not be immediately cut off. Having the means to leave a financial legacy such as a named endowment fund or family foundation is another way. If it is within your power, how to you want to be remembered?
“Horses are a false hope for deliverance.” (33:17)
In old Westerns, the hero swoops in and rescues the damsel in distress, throws her across a horse, and rides off into the sunset. The Psalmist, however, speaks of a symbolic horse as the possession of a warrior, representing wealth, power and mobility. In our terms, we might speak of a luxury automobile or the latest mobile phone, with which we can handily outrun and defeat our business competitors. Wealth and influence can be of tremendous benefit, but at the end of our life we ought to rather be remembered for our kindness and for the good things that we’ve done and not just for the possessions we leave behind.
“Happy is one whose transgression is forgiven.” (32:1)
It is a great feeling to hear the words “I forgive you” spoken with sincere conviction. We all make mistakes. Sometimes we respond by denying that we did anything wrong and making excuses, instead of putting on our big boy and big girl pants and accepting the consequences of our behavior. It takes a strong and mature person to take responsibility for mistakes by admitting what we did, apologizing to those we’ve hurt, and making restitution, if possible. We do so knowing that forgiveness is not automatic, that sometimes the injured party will take longer to heal than it took for us to realize the mistake.