Over the years, I have sadly whispered and heard others utter as well – the poignant phrase “Baruch Dayan HaEmet,” upon being made aware of a death. I had automatically translated the words as meaning, “Blessed is the True Judge.” I understood it to be a declaration that Hashem is the ultimate authority; He renders an unblemished, infallible and authentic judgment because He is divine and incapable of bias or unfairness.
But one day, after unfortunately intoning it yet again, I realized that I had translated the phrase wrongly. Somehow, for the first time, I became aware of the letter “hey,” which means “the.” Funny how you can look at something dozens of times and suddenly see something you had never noticed before. The phrase took on a new meaning. “Dayan HaEmet” is the Hebrew for “the judge of the truth.
It was an epiphany for me! And very comforting. Dayan HaEmet was an affirmation that there was no fooling Hashem. He knew the truth. While humans could be duped or tricked as to the true nature of a person, Hashem discerned the reality hiding behind the facade. There was no conning the Creator. The Master of the Universe could not be deceived.
Hashem knows if the neshama standing in front of Him on Yom HaDin, e.g. had earned his money honestly, or if he had “faulty scales” so to speak. He knows if a businessman had substituted shoddy material for more expensive ones and pocketed the difference. Hashem is cognizant if cheaper, questionably kosher ingredients were substituted instead of the more costly mehadrin ones as advertised. Hashem would realize that the person honored for being a baal tzedakah, had actually amassed his fortune by underpaying his workers, and that his donated money was “treif gelt.” Dirty money “stolen” from his hardworking employees.
Hashem knows if a woman running around doing chesed and lapping up the praise of her community, had been chronically verbally and emotionally abusive to her spouse and children, undermining their mental wellbeing with her negligence and relentless toxic taunts.
Hashem recognizes the malicious ex-wives who falsely accused their husbands of molesting their daughters, resulting in the negating of any contact between father and child – cruelly and maliciously erasing the possibility of a parent and children having a mutually nourishing and necessary connection. They may play the poor victim and garner the community’s support and sympathy, but Hashem knows the truth.
Some spouses have demonized the person they divorced, resulting in parental alienation and the children refusing to associate with the maligned father or mother. There are horror stories of children accusing their father of not giving them financial support, or that he abandoned them by not showing up for visitation, when the mother pocketed the money for her own selfish use, and sabotaged his efforts to see the kids as court ordered. Conversely, there are vindictive, controlling men who punish their wife who dares to want out of a toxic marriage by withholding a gett, yet are strict about attending a minyan three times a day. They view themselves as erlich Yidden.
There are judges and lawyers both in secular and religious courts who ignored the facts so as to curry favor with the more prominent party in a financial or custody dispute. They frame their actions as being halachically justifiable.
But Hashem, the ultimate judge, knows the emet.
I can only conclude that those who lie and cheat are atheists. For if they genuinely believed in Hashem, they would fear Him and be terrified of disobeying his holy statues. They would be petrified of breaking the Ten Commandments that are the basis of the Torah and our blueprint for living an ethical, moral and principled live. It is prohibited to steal, to commit adultery, (an action that can be viewed as a form of stealing) and murder. Humiliating someone in public, and ruining one’s good name and reputation is likened to killing.
Sadly, there are parents, bosses, friends and relatives who frequently mock, denigrate and minimize those hapless souls connected to them. Some clueless teachers have repeatedly humiliated students in front of their classmates; the damage is incalculable. Some go off the derech, bitter and disillusioned because for them the ways of Yiddishkeit are not at all darchei noam (pleasant).
A friend recently confided that decades ago, her very bright high school daughter (who herself has grown up children) was told by a teacher that she was the stupidest student he had ever had. My friend wonders why her daughter stayed frum.
The Torah clearly states that one should not “put obstacles in front of the blind.” From that we learn that it is forbidden to take advantage of those who are naive, or uniformed or inexperienced. There are shadchanim or references who misled trusting young men and women by withholding critical information regarding the person being redt to his/her family. They deluded themselves and assuaged their conscience by saying that marriage will “straighten the person out.”
Columnist Rachel Bluth has chronicled for decades the tragic outcomes of this misguided, ill-advised attitude, offering guidance and validation and resources to escape for the wretched, despairing victims who are tightly entangled in a suffocating web of suffering.
At the end of our days in this world, we all will be facing Dayan HaEmet – the Judge of the Truth. It is not too late to do teshuva and make amends.