Toe'evah : abomination. This expression of utter repulsiveness is used sparingly in the Torah, limited to such atrocities as sexual perversion and idolatry. Surprisingly, the word toe'evah can be found towards the end of this week's parsha, as the Torah describes the laws of business ethics. "You must have a full honest weight and a full honest measure; for an abomination of Hashem, your G-d, are all who do this, all who act corruptly" (25:15-16).
Apparently, dishonest business people are no better than those whose sins call for the death penalty. The Talmud ( Baba Batra 88b) tells us that the punishment for dishonest weights is greater than that for sexual immorality. Sexual sins, Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explains, are grave; but they are generally private affairs affecting only those directly involved. On the other hand, dishonest business practices, with their attendant corruption, can affect and destroy the fabric of society, seeping into every corner of life.
While the Torah's view on dishonest business practices is clear, it appears that the choice of the word toe'evah has an additional message for us. A discussion of "dishonest weights" immediately precedes the mitzvah to wipe out Amalek, a mitzvah unlike any other in the Torah. What was it about Amalek that was so evil that such harsh measures were prescribed? "He surprised you on the way and smote the hindmost of thee, all that were enfeebled in thy rear, while you were faint and weary, and he feared not G-d" (25:18-19). Other nations went to war with us, but at least they had some real or perceived grievance. Amalek attacked us (despite the fact that they lived nowhere near the land of Israel ), but what was truly despicable was the way they attacked. Instead of "fighting like a man", they struck a weak nation from the rear, like typical cowards. In modern parlance, we would say that they attacked civilian and not military targets. Even war has rules, and Amalek did not hesitate to break them. They did not have the courage to confront the enemy.
"When the brothers realized that their father loved him more than all the rest, they began to hate him. They could not say a peaceful word to him." ( Breisheet 37:4) Though Joseph's brothers were guilty of a grievous sin, our Rabbis praise the fact that they were of "one heart and one mouth". They did not pretend to like Joseph. At least they had the courage to confront Joseph, based on their (mistaken) belief that Joseph deserved his punishment.
If you are going to cheat somebody, at least be "honest" about it. Don't pretend to be honest and then, unbeknownst to anybody, slightly adjust your scales. The Torah abhors two-faced people. Thus, one who sneaks into your house to rob you must pay double his take, whereas a mugger must only return that which he stole. The mugger is at least "brutally consistent".
While the nation of Amalek no longer exists, its manifestations are all around us. Instead of confronting our "enemies", we, too, like to do things behind their backs. If one spreads lashon hara against his fellow but does not have the courage to confront his nemesis with his accusations, that too, is a trait of Amalek, and must be eradicated. And lashon hara is what they call it when the accusations are true. How much worse is the sin, and how much more of an abomination, when the accusations are false? Yet so many of us, like the sly storekeeper, lack the courage to be open about our actions.
This analysis clarifies the next item mentioned in the Torah, that of Bikkurim , the mitzvah of the first fruit. The Torah commands that the farmer not only bring his first fruit to the temple, but that he publicly proclaim his thanks to G-d for his bounty. "You shall then make the following declaration before G-d your Lord.I am now bringing the first fruit of the land that G-d has given me" (26:10). Though it was obvious what was happening, a public declaration was necessary.
The path to G-d is one we joyfully celebrate in public. Hiding behind our deeds, or fearing to confront issues directly, are the ways of the dishonest and are the allies of Amalek. Our actions must be such that we have nothing to fear if they are made public; we should be proud to let others see our beautiful way of life. If we do so, then "we shall rejoice in all the good that G-d your Lord has granted you and your family" (26:11).