What is Tamim?
Have I mentioned how much I love Devarim (Deuteronomy)? Probably. I love how it wraps things up. I love it’s reflectiveness. I love how it spends so much time on what the Israelites need to strive for when they are on their own after they cross the Jordan. How it fits so perfectly with this time of year. It’s like the guide for heshbon hanefesh for our soul’s accounting.
This week is Shoftim. (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 16:18 – 21:9). It’s got a lot going on. Appointing judges and magistrates, how to deal with complex legal cases, “Justice, Justice, you shall pursue!” Who has to fight in wars, and who doesn’t. Stamp out paganism now! Don’t be a soothsayer.
Then, right there, in the middle of the soothsayer part, this line shows up: תָּמִים תִּהְיֶה, עִם יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ. Tamim tih’yeh im Adonai Elohecha. Be wholehearted with your God.
The weird word here is tamim. Is it really “wholehearted?” Is it only “wholehearted?” Other places it’s translated a lot of other ways: Innocent, complete, whole, entire, wholesome, unimpaired, having integrity, pure, blameless…the list goes on and on…and on.
Here’s what the famous medieval commentator Rashi has to say:
Walk with God simple-heartedly (bet’mimut) and look forward to what He has in store. Do not probe the future, but rather accept whatever happens to you simple-heartedly…
Basically, don’t keep looking for the next big thing. Don’t look for the better person to go out with or marry, don’t go looking for the cooler job, the more fashionable city…just be here for a minute, please. Be present. Be aware. Seriously, be here. Otherwise you’re just going to be miserable.
My havruta says tamim is the best way to hebraicize the word “zen.” I love that guy so very much.
He doesn’t mean the “calm” sense of zen. He means the perfectly present, open hearted, totally cool with the situation, trusting, kind of zen.
So there’s the tamim part. But there’s another word. A tiny word with two letters in Hebrew: עִם im. It means “with.”
So it’s not openhearted, simplehearted, present, innocent, trusting to God. Or about God. Or of God.
It’s with God.
If we are tamim, God will be tamim. God, the Universe, Humanity…whatever you want to call it. I say God. God will be present. That’s where God lives. In temimut. (That’s the noun form.)
Shoftim is mostly about the importance of justice and compassion.
Both of those depend upon being present.
It’s the first week of Elul. The first Shabbat in Elul. It’s heshbon hanefesh time. Reflecting time. Honest accounting time. Looking inward time.
Have I been tamim enough? Openhearted, compassionate, present, enough? Have I spent too much time looking for the next best thing? If I haven’t opened my heart to the present, why not?