In this week's Parshah the Torah tells us, "You shall be guiltless towards G‑d and towards Israel" (Numbers 32:22). From this we learn that one should always have at least two people together as trustees when it comes to public funds. We also learn this from Moses. Moses was the trusted servant of G‑d Himself, of whom the Torah relates that after his passing nobody every equaled his level of closeness to G‑d. Yet the Torah tells us that when an accounting was being made of the materials donated to the Sanctuary, it was done "by the hand of Itamar the son of Aaron." Moses was surely trusted by G‑d. Yet he had somebody else with him when doing the accounts. The Torah teaches us not to leave any grounds for suspicion on the part of the casual observer.

We see this also from Jewish Law. The law is that when the priests were carrying around the money donated to the Temple, they were not allowed to wear either a cloak with a hem on it, or anything with space in which money could be hidden, in case of any suspicions, however false, which might be aroused. We are told to be free of blame and suspicion before our fellow and before G‑d, as we quoted earlier, to " guiltless towards G‑d and towards Israel."

Like many ideas discussed in the Torah, our first reaction may well be "that is very obvious." But how often do we find ourselves placing ourselves, or others, in a situation which is open to misinterpretation or to false suspicion. We see from the Torah that we must always be careful not to create any kind of situation where it even appears that we are doing the wrong thing. It is even more important to take care not to place others in such a situation, for everyone's benefit.

The question was once asked, "Which is more important—Torah precepts or ethical concepts?" It is a well-meaning but misguided question. Torah precepts include ethical and moral practices, whether in our business lives, personal lives, or daily relationships with others. Torah is as much about our relationship "between man and man" as "between man and G‑d" and the ultimate fulfillment of Torah requires us our concentration on both. So the answer to the question? The one is included in the other. Torah observance must include ethical and moral behavior. Indeed, large sections of Jewish Law deal with fair practice, civil law, slander and libel, contracts, promises, and so much more. The Torah is our guidebook not just in "spiritual" and "G‑dly" matters but in mundane, everyday matters. It is in our day-to-day material lives that we are specifically able to elevate our surroundings through adherence to the ethics of Sinai.