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14.02.2014 11:20    Comments: 0    Categories: Weekly Parashah      Tags: torah  shabbat  parashah  parashat ki tisa  

Parashat Ki Tisa: 1 Minute on the Parasha with Rabbi Cowen:

Moshe conducts a census of the People of Israel by counting each silver half-shekel donated by all men age twenty and over. Moshe is commanded to make a copper sink for the Mishkan. The women donate the necessary metal.

The formula of the anointing oil is detailed, and HaShem directs Moshe to use this oil only for inaugurating the Mishkan/Tabernacle, its vessels, Aharon and his sons. HaShem selects Bezalel and Aholiav as master craftsmen for the Mishkan and its vessels. The Jewish People are commanded to keep the Shabbat as an eternal sign that HaShem created the world. Moshe receives the two Tablets of Law on which are written the Ten Commandments. The erev rav or mixed multitude who left Egypt with the Jewish People panic when Moshe's descent seems delayed, and force Aharon to make a golden calf for them to worship. Aharon stalls, trying to delay them. HaShem informs Moshe to return to the people immediately, threatening to destroy everyone and build a new nation from Moshe. When Moshe sees the camp of idol-worship he smashes the tablets and he destroys the golden calf.

The sons of Levi volunteer to punish the transgressors, executing 3,000 men. Moshe ascends the mountain to pray for forgiveness for the people, and HaShem accepts his prayer. Moshe sets up the Mishkan and HaShem’'s cloud of glory returns.

Moshe entreats HaShem to show him the rules by which he conducts the world, but is granted only a small portion of this request. HaShem tells Moshe to form new tablets and reveals to him the text of the prayer that will invoke Divine mercy.

Idol worship, intermarriage and the combination of milk and meat are prohibited. The laws of Pesach/Passover, the first-born, the first-fruits, Shabbat, Shavuot and Succot are conveyed. When Moshe descends with the second set of tablets, his face is luminous as a result of contact with the Divine.

Points to Ponder this Week with Rabbi Cowen:

A. In this week’s Parasha, we learn of the horrific sin of the Golden Calf.  In its aftermath, Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu: “Say to Bnei Yisroel--you are stiff-necked people…” (Shemot 33:5).  In fact, this exact same description of our “stiff-neckedness” is repeated two other times in the Parasha (Shemot 33:3 and 34:9).   Likewise, in the Viduy we recite “Kishinu Oref--we have been stiff-necked.”  There is a very important message here for us.  The neck, as opposed to the front, symbolizes the back of the person and shows that the person is turned away from someone, rather than facing him.  It is our job not to turn away from what we have done, and certainly not to turn away from Hashem.  Instead, we must face that which we have done with a plan to improve, and face Hashem asking Him for nothing less than Divine assistance going forward.

There is also a vital second lesson:  The Torah is teaching that the heinous “Chet Ha'egel” is related to being obstinate and inflexible.  In our stubbornness, we must be careful to distinguish between fact and opinion, between “teaching lessons to others” and learning to control our self-interest or pride.  It is now a very auspicious time to deal with this middah, in order to indicate that we, on our own personal level and in our own private way, are looking to correct the stiff-neckedness within us--and our recognition that obstinacy could eventually result in something that is catastrophic, rachmana litzlan.  If our actions are “just because” or “because that is the way I do things” or because “I know I am right” or “because I don’t do it that way”… (you can fill in another phrase that better summarizes your own stiff-neckedness) then we may have to work on some adjustments in attitude.

Of course, being tough in some areas is good--such as not flinching from the requirements of Halacha or proper Hashkafa in spite of work, financial or even social pressures to do so.  However, Chazal advise specifically that “a person should be soft as a reed, and not hard as a cedar tree” (Taanis 20B).  Reeds are malleable and do not break--even in the face of a harsh wind or thunderous storm.  Incredibly, the mighty cedar may fall earlier than the thin little reed.  Let us take this lesson to heart as we practice acting with more pleasance than presence, the way Hashem would like us to!

B. The Pasuk teaches that the letters on the Luchot were engraved through and through, and that, by Miracle, they could be read from both sides although the writing was not reversed.  HaRav Pam, Z’tl, as quoted in the wonderful work”, by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita, brings the following important lesson relating to this Miracle:  HaRav Chaim Elazar Wachs, Z’tl, (the “Nefesh Chayah”) was a partner in a paper factory.  His partner came to him with an idea that would bring him a great deal of profit in a short amount of time.  When the partner presented all of the details, HaRav Wachs concluded that the idea involved some degree of impropriety, and bordered on geneiva.  His partner still wanted to go ahead with the “get-rich-quick” scheme.  HaRav Wachs exclaimed, “Don’t you realize why the Luchot had to be readable from either side?!  Because no matter which way you turn the Luchos--you have to see the Lo Signov!”  We may all be faced with the temptations of improprieties--some bigger and some smaller.  We must, however, realize that the Luchot preceded these temptations and manipulations--and covers them from whatever angle they may be coming!

C. Chazal in Masechet Rosh Hashanah 17B teach of the great power of the Thirteen Middot of Rachamim found in the Parasha (Shemot 34:6,7), which are first introduced to us after the Chet HaEgel.  Indeed, their introduction to us after the Egel indicates their great potency--as we kept going as a nation after such a devastating aveira.  The Netziv makes an amazing point as to one of these Middot.  He writes that it is not correct to read this Middah as “Rav Chesed” and then simply continue with “Emet”, as the next Middah.  Instead, and in fact, the word “Rav” modifies BOTH Chesed and Emes--for Hashem not only provides Abundant Chesed but also Abundant Truth.  It is this Middah that we must emulate--not to allow ourselves into the singular comfort of “Rav Chesed” which we are so incredibly blessed with in K’lal Yisroel--but also to be the Rav Emet--being an overflowing source of Truth as well!

D. The Taz asks what is the Attribute of Mercy contained in the word “Lo Yinakeh”.  We know that Yinakeh means that Hashem cleanses the sin of one who does Teshuva--but how is the Lo Yinakeh--Not Cleansing the Sin--helpful to us?  The Taz answers that it means that Hashem will not eliminate the sin and will in fact punish the sinner somewhat --but still waits for him to do Teshuva, and in the interim does not give him the punishment that he truly otherwise deserves.  There are thirteen different levels of Mercy--it is up to us to determine which levels of Mercy we will be zoche/merit to--we do not have to be at the bottom of the class--so why should we put ourselves there?  Teshuva is a much better alternative!

E. HaRav Moshe Rosenshein, Z’tl, approached his great Rebbe, the Mashgiach of Mir Yeshivah, HaRav Yeruchem Levovitz, Z’tl, and asked him to explain the Chet HaEgel to him.  After much study of the topic, HaRav Rosenshein was expecting a greatly detailed and long explanation from his Rebbe of what had transpired here.  HaRav Yeruchem answered with Two Words.  The Two Words....Yetzer Hara!  After all, could it make any sense that a people who owed so much to Moshe Rabbeinu would believe that he died--and almost immediately start to wildly party?  As we say in the Lechu Nerannena at the outset of Kabbalat Shabbat (Tehillim 95) “Va’Omar Am To’ei Levav Hem...--and I said they are a people who are mistaken of heart...”.  The Yetzer Hara’s effects were so devastating that the sin of the Golden Calf burdens us to this very day.  There is a great lesson for us all here.  If we could remind ourselves when making any daily decision that we must realize which side of the decision the Yetzer Hara is on--we can take a great step--on a daily basis--to overcoming, overriding and overruling the Chet HaEgel itself.  What an accomplishment!  What a great and enormous potential every day brings with it!
 
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