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בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ

In the beginning of G-d’s creating the heavens and earth. (1:1)

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The Baal HaTurim notes that the last letters of the words Bereishisbara Elokim — taf, aleph, mem — spell out (when rearranged) theword emes, truth. This teaches us that the world was created via theattribute of emes. Interestingly, the Torah alludes to the word emes in anindirect manner, since the sequence of the letters is out of order. HoravShmuel David Walkin, zl, infers a profound lesson from here. The Torahteaches us that one must strive for the truth, regardless of the situation. One isnot obligated to be truthful only during times of smooth sailing in which hehas no extenuating circumstances or financial troubles. One must be truthful,even under circumstances that overwhelm and distress him, when life has noseder, order, and the demands on him are overpowering. Even when he isunder stress, one must act with integrity. Indeed, the only thing that can guidehim to maintain a straight course through the ambiguities and vicissitudesthat confront him is the truth.

The Brisker Rav, zl, was known to be the paragon of integrity. Theattribute of emes was his benchmark in every endeavor in his life. Hedemonstrated this trait when an individual whom he held in esteem wouldvisit. The Brisker Rav showed him the greatest reverence, regardless of theperson’s station in life. Conversely, if he was visited by a person for whomhe had very little respect, it did not matter whether the individual had a largefollowing or not, the Rav’s greeting was only cordial and diplomatic.

Indeed, the Brisker Rav was once asked if a person’s stature can bemeasured by his following. He responded that one’s following is not anindication of his true character. He substantiated this with Rashi’s commentconcerning the multitude of stars that accompany the moon. These stars arepresent to appease the moon after its size had been diminished by Hashem.This teaches us that one’s following is not a sign of his essence. On the contrary, it might indicate the converse. A weak person needs a strongbacking. A strong person does not need the accolades and the “pat on theback” that are quite often false anyway.

The Rav cited the following analogy to explain this further. A manwalks down the street and notices a large tree. Regardless of how manypeople come along to support his “view,” he is clearly aware that there is atree in this place, because he sees it with his own two eyes. Let us look atanother scenario. The same person stands in the street and does not see a tree.Then, even if another person comes along and says he sees a tree, he will notbelieve his peer. If ten people come and declare that they see a tree, the firstperson might begin to question his own ability to see clearly. After all, tenpeople say that they see a tree! If one hundred people come along and verifythat they see a tree, then the first person who had not seen a tree might evenbegin to believe that he is losing his eyesight. If one hundred people seesomething and he does not, then something must be wrong. His “inability tosee” will increase as more and more people exclaim that they see a tree.

The same idea applies to Torah leadership. The true Torah giantdoes not need a large community to pay him homage. The Chafetz Chaimwas rav in Radin, a small community in Poland. He made the town great. Hegave it distinction. He gave it greatness. The Chafetz Chaim and so many likehim were distinguished in their own right. They did not need others tosubstantiate the reality of their gadlus. There are others, however, who arelike the elusive tree that one believes exists only because so many say theysee it. If the tree is not there, the fact that people say it is there will not bringit into existence. Gadlus baTorah is inherent within the person. It is notsubject to public acclaim.