Gripped, as Jews ought to be at this time of year, with the demands of teshuvah, repentance, we look for themes and insights in the regular Torah reading cycle that enhance our understanding of the concept. The Torah and its interpreters never disappoint us. Consider the reference in the Song of Moses to God Who is termed “a God of faithfulness” and “without iniquity who is just and right” (Deuteronomy 32:2). While certainly the underlying claim is fodder for further theological debate, if the inherent difficulty of the claim is set aside in favor of the language, an important observation emerges.
Logically, if God – or any human being for that matter – is just and right, then He is ipso facto without iniquity. So how can we explain the redundancy? Why include the expression “without iniquity?” To Rabbi Mordechai HaKohen, author of Al HaTorah, the odd locution in the Torah is intended. The objective is not to make a statement about God but to provide direction to human beings.
Sometimes people of fine character and supreme virtue become too satisfied with their status that they feel themselves complete, that is to say, “without iniquity.” As a consequence of self-congratulation they no longer act to combat injustice. But there is no limit to righteousness. There is no point at which nobility ends because the maximum required has been reached. Rather, a person, no matter how worthy, must regularly examine him/herself and look to always performing what is just and right.
A popular meme widely viewed in the media says: “I can only help one person each day. Today isn’t your day. Tomorrow is not looking too good either.” This is what the Penitential Period is fighting against. This is the lesson derived from the Torah we read during this period.