Be Tamim by Rabbi Benny Berlin

By the end of Parashat Lech Lecha, Avram is already a true eved Hashem. He has passed every test placed before him and has been promised that he will become a great nation. It would be difficult to find in the text a single aveira committed by him. And yet, when Avram has reached the ripe old age of 99, Hashem says to him: “Hishalech lifanai vehyei tamim”(17:1) – “Walk before Me and be tamim.”

The exact meaning of tamim is unknown, but any one of its myriad possible meanings should have already applied to Avram – whole, unblemished, blameless, perfect, pious. After all that he has done, how is he not already tamim? What is missing?

In order to understand Hashem’s commandment to Avram, we must look beyond the simple p’shat of the text. To this point, the only other time “tamim” has been used in Torah is in reference to Noach: “Noach was a tzaddik tamim” (6:9). What was the text referring to there? According to the Maharil Diskin, Noach achieved the status of tamim after the flood, at a time when the rest of the world had ceased to wrong each other, instead persistently rebelling against Hashem. By remaining steadfast in his devotion to Hashem despite the aveiros of his neighbors, not only was Noach “blameless” in all that would soon transpire, but he was also tamim on a much deeper level, unblemished and unwavering in his bitachon b’Hashem.

Based on a similar understanding of the word tamim, Ibn Ezra (17:1) explains that the commandment to Avram to be tamim is directly connected to the next test to be placed before him – that of the bris milah. Hashem wants Avram’s bitachon to be so strong that he will not question Him regarding this new nisayon. For most of us, t’mimus seems to be impossible to attain. However, we must realize that Hashem is not asking us to be perfect, but merely to believe in Him in a time when those around us refuse to have faith. In doing so, may we all, through our hard work and dedication to avodas Hashem, be zocheh to walk before Hashem with t’mimus.