Parashat Ki Tisa

Dedicated L'ilui Nishmat Yosef Ben Hanina by the Aizer Family

Parashat Ki Tisa

The Perashah begins as Hashem instructs Moshe to take a census of B'nei Yisrael. During the count, every man aged twenty and up must give mahatzit hashekel , or a half-shekel, as an atonement for his soul: “The wealthy shall not give more and the poor man shall not give less than half a shekel.” According to Hazal, Hashem showed Moshe a coin of fire and said to him zeh yitnu, "This you shall give." Rashi explains that Hashem showed the half-shekel under the Kise' Hakavod (Hashem’s throne) in a ball of fire to teach us that money is very similar to fire. Fire, like money, can be good, but it can also be very harmful. Fire can heat your home and cook your food, but if we use fire in the wrong way, it becomes a destructive force that can burn everything. Money can also be good, helping people through tzedakah that may be in dire need and supporting Torah causes, but it too can be very destructive because money has been known to cause conflicts that has broken up families and destroyed business partnerships. There are many statistics that even show that most lottery winners have lost their winnings within a few years and sometimes, may have even lost their lives!

Another reason for the ruling regarding half a shekel is that all of B'nei Yisrael are like a half in themselves and need one another to become whole. Kol Yisrael arevim zeh lazeh: all of us are connected to each other because Jews are supposed to help one another! The word Mahatzit in Hebrew is spelled with the letters Mem-Het-Tzadi-Yod-Tav. The middle letter is a Tzadi, which stands for Tzedakah (charity). The two middle letters that surround the Tzadi are 'Het-Yod' which spells Hai (life) and the outer letters are Mem and Tav, which spell Met (dead). So what the word Mahatzit tells us is that when you give charity, you will have life and if you don't give Tzedakah, then it may lead to the opposite, Hass V'shalom. As the pasuk in Mishle'(10:2, 11:4) says, Utzdakah Tatzil Mimavet (And charity saves from death!)

B'nei Yisrael were concerned when they noticed that Moshe was late returning from Har Sinai, and they were worried that he might no longer be alive. Because they miscalculated the time by just six hours, they approached Aharon to make a golden calf which would serve as an intermediary to Hashem to replace Moshe. In order to delay the people and concerned for his own life Aharon told them, "Bring me your wives’ gold jewels." Aharon assumed correctly that the wives would be reluctant to give up their jewlery, especially in order to create a golden calf. This is the reason that wives were granted every Rosh Hodesh as a holiday, which would be a day off from their housework!

The question thats asked is how can a nation that was at such a high level after being saved by Hashem, who witnessed so many miracles and reached the pinnacle of receiving the Torah, stoop to such a low level, erecting an idol in the form of a Golden Calf? The answer is: worry and panic! According to Rav Haim Shmuelevitz, once the people began to worry and to feel depressed, the Satan, who is able to discern weakness in people, pounced. Rabbi Twersky says the answer is not to make any important decisions when you are in that state of mind of panic. That was the mistake B'nei Yisrael made: they rushed to make the Golden Calf, in a state of panic so to this very day we are still paying for that sin.

Moshe finally descended from Har Sinai with the two Tablets in his hands, which were the handiwork of Hashem on a stone of sapphire. The very manner in which the Tablets were inscribed was a testimony to their divine origin, because you can read the letters from either side. The word 'engraved' in Hebrew is harut. Our Rabbis teach us that it can also be read herut, which means freedom, and this teaches us that the only truly free person is one who engages in the study of Torah. (Pirke Avot, 6:2) The Torah goes on to elaborate (32:16): "The Tablets were G-d's handiwork, and the script was the script of G-d, engraved on the tablets." Rabbi Frand points out that when Moshe received the tablets from Hashem the Pasuk (31:18), simply states "Hashem gave the two tablets of testimony, stone tablets inscribed by the finger of G-d." Rabbi Frand asks the question, why is it that the Torah doesn't say much when the Tablets are given to Moshe but then elaborates when Moshe destroys them? The answer is that when we have something that is precious, we don't always appreciate it until we've lost it.

When Moshe reached the bottom of the mountain, he saw with his own eyes what B'nei Yisrael had done with the Golden Calf and how they had begun to worship it. Because of his anger, he threw down the Tablets and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. We may ask, why did Moshe have to shatter the Tablets? Our Sages teach us that by throwing down the Tablets, it was as if Moshe tore up the marriage contract so that B'nei Yisrael would not be destroyed. B'nei Yisrael has been compared as the bride of Hashem, and by making the Golden Calf, it was as if we were unfaithful to Hashem and deserved to be destroyed. Moshe stopped that decree by throwing down the Tablets, thereby tearing up the contract between B'nei Yisrael and Hashem. If there was no contract, the sin would not be complete and we would still be able to make Teshuvah! Until today we are still trying to atone for Het HaEgel, the sin of the Golden Calf. Rabbi Sananas taught us that one way that we're still paying for this sin is through our holidays. The Mo'd festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Succot total fifteen days, multiplied by 24 hours a day equals 360 hours. B'nei Yisrael miscalculated by six hours, so going by the principal of Batel Be'Shishiim (nullified by 60), we are atoning for those six hours 60 times over, through the Emunah that we have over those 360 hours of these three holidays.

There is another key lesson that we learn from the sin of the Golden Calf, and that is that we do not suspend, compromise or change in any way our halachot to fit the needs of today, no matter what! There's a famous story that occurred with Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky in the early 1900s. At the time, the government in Vilna wanted all the butchers to stun animals before they do the Shehitah (slaughter). Rav Grodzinsky ruled that we don't stun animals and we don't deviate from our Shehitah laws. The Rav said that if it means that we can't eat meat, then we won't eat any meat until the decree is changed. One butcher protested that he would not lose business because of a stringency. He decided to disobey the Rabbi and went against his warnings. The Rabbi wrote the butcher a letter and said: "Don't disobey me today, because you don't know where this will lead to in the future, maybe your children or grandchildren will serve the people meat that's unkosher someday!" Many years later here in America, that butcher’s grandson was a local community butcher who was caught selling Taref (unkosher) meat for many years to his community, until he was eventually run out of town. So we can learn clearly from this story, that we don't compromise the laws of our Torah. As Rabbi Diamond taught us many times from his father-in-law Rabbi Davis and from Rabbi Avigdor Miller, this is exactly how the Reform movement started in Europe. The Jews of those communities wanted to reduce the differences between themselves and their non-Jewish neighbors, so they started to make a few small innocent changes in order to fit into society better. Rabbi Diamond would always say:"You can never move a spider's web, even one millimetre, because if you do, the entire web will fall apart!"

May we always feel the same closeness with our fellow Jews that B’nei Yisrael felt at Har Sinai; and may we always help each other in times of need. May we also be able to follow the teachings of our Rabbis and our Halachot to the best of our ability, so that we do not stumble and Hass V'Shalom regress to the point where we may dilute our Halachot or our Torah. The Torah laws, and the Rabbinic laws that expound them are the glue that keeps us together as a people who are close to each other and as close to Hashem as His bride, the way we were at Har Sinai!

Shabbat Shalom! Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of Rabbi Amram Sananes Leiluiy Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Garaz Sarah Bat Chanah Malka Bat Garaz Shulamit Bat Helaina Yaakov Ben Rachel Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher Rav Haim Ben Rivka Meir Ben Latifa Yitzchak Ben Adele Esther Bat Sarah Chanah Bat Esther Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana Moshe Ben Garaz Rafael ben Miriam Moshe Ben Mazal