Re’eh: Three ways to assess character
What are the three ways in which one can assess a person’s character?
The Gemara in Masechet Eruvin 65b tells us the answer is,
“Kisoh, kosoh and ka’asoh.”
‘Kisoh’ – ones’ pocket. To what degree is a person generous?
‘Kosoh’ – one’s cup. How does a person conduct him or herself when inebriated?
And ‘Ka’asoh’ – one’s anger – when in a rage, when really upset, to what degree can a person control themselves?
It is from here that Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch is able to give a beautiful understanding of the very final verse of Parshat Re’eh. The Torah (Devarim 16:16) tells us how, over the three pilgrim festivals,
“Veloh yeiraeh pnei Hashem reikam,” – “We should not come to Jerusalem, to the presence of Hashem, empty handed.”
“Ish k’matnat yadoh,” – “Every person should give according to the gift that comes from their hands,”
“kevirkat Hashem Elokeicha asher natan lach,” – “according to the blessing that Hashem has given to them.”
Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch explains that there is another way to read the seemingly unnecessary words ‘ish k’matnat yadoh’ – ‘every person according to the gift of their hands’. We can read it as follows:
‘Ish’ – how do you tell the character of a person? The answer is, ‘k’matnat yado’ – according to the way that their hands give.
This is an example of ‘kisoh’. Hashem has blessed this individual, so to what degree is this person being generous? Now we can understand the continuation of the verse: ‘kebirkat Hashem Elokeicha asher natan lach’ – if you give to charity, if you give of yourself to others according to the blessings that Hashem has given you, commensurate with what you have, that is the sign of a truly outstanding character.
So therefore, when coming to Jerusalem on the pilgrim festivals, to pray to Hashem and be in the presence of the Almighty, the Torah highlights for us how central generosity to fellow human beings is. Ultimately, one of the key ways to test the true character of a person will depend on how giving they are.