MARCH 12-13, 2003 20 ADAR 5764
When we read about the sin of the Golden Calf, we can't help but be amazed at how the Jewish people would do something like that right after receiving the Torah on Mt. Sinai. How could Hashem allow it to happen to them?
The Rabbis tell us that we see from here how easy it is for someone to fall from a level that was reached. We must remember that they climbed forty-nine levels very quickly to reach the point of being able to receive the Torah, so it wasn't yet part of them on a permanent basis. Even for us who do things constantly and think it will always be so, this lesson teaches us that we must always be vigilant not to fall from our level.
On the other hand, we also learn the power of teshubah; the Jewish people were saved from total punishment through their collective repentance and from here, the gemara says, we can appreciate how great teshubah is.
Let us always maintain our degree of perfection and use teshubah when necessary to return to Hashem. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"The Children of Israel shall observe the Shabbat" (Shemot 31:16)
Our brothers and sisters living in Israel are living in a time of danger. They are constantly on the alert for any suspicious person. Any person may be the next one carrying a suicide bomb. Rabbi Y. Zilberstein tells a story that took place a couple of years ago in Tel-Aviv. As we know there was a disco called the Dolphinarium, that was blown up on a Friday night with many fatalities. There was a story that didn't make it to the newspapers, but it definitely was headline material.
There was a group of twenty friends that had purchased tickets and were supposed to be there that night. The police investigated the case to find out why they didn't show up. It turned out that this group was a birthday party celebration of one of the friends. There was one friend that was a Shomer Shabbat and, while he felt bad that he would miss the party, he notified his friends that he wasn't going. When they found out, the entire group decided that if one of them couldn't come, they would postpone the party so he could attend!
The verse in the Torah says that the Jews will observe the Shabbat. It also means they will protect the Shabbat. They protected the Shabbat - the Shabbat protected them from Heaven above. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom" (Shemot 31:6)
Regarding this pasuk the Talmud states that "Hashem only grants wisdom to those in whom wisdom is already present." Hashem only uses as an instrument for His Divine wisdom one who already possesses, having developed on his own, the gift of human wisdom. What is the indication that one has developed his gift of human wisdom? Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz explains that one must be one "who seeks the word of Hashem." A person must exhibit an unrelenting quest to attain an understanding of Torah in its depth and breadth. Hashem's light and inspiration demand a vessel which is prepared, willing and capable of receiving it. He explains that Yehoshua, who became the leader of Klal Yisrael, exemplified this trait. We find that Hashem tells Moshe that he should choose Yehoshua for the next leader, "a man of the spirit." The Seforno explains this to mean "one who is prepared to receive the light of the Living King's Countenance." Yehoshua was selected to succeed Moshe as the leader of the Jewish nation and transmitter of the Torah although there were others whose stature initially surpassed his own, because he was a "seeker." He sought relentlessly to attain as much knowledge as possible. It is impossible for anyone to perceive his own inherent potential. Therefore, one must strive to attain a level of Torah knowledge and overall greatness that far surpasses his apparent capabilities and appears to be out of reach. It is as a result of being a "seeker" that one realizes the greatest goals. (Peninim on the Torah)
Question: Why is the sentence Shema Yisrael included in Keter in Musaf?
Answer: There was a time in our history when the authorities prohibited the Jews from reciting Shema in their prayers. Therefore, the Sages at that time added the one sentence and placed it in Keter. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)
"And Hashem said to Moshe, 'I have seen this people and they are a stiff-necked people'" (Shemot 32:9)
Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm commented: In the previous verse we read how they made a golden calf, bowed down to it and even brought it offerings. But in this concluding verse we see that the main fault of the people was that they were stiff-necked. That is, they lacked the flexibility to admit that they made a mistake. When someone is flexible, even if he makes many mistakes he will regret them and will change. But if a person is inflexible, when he makes a mistake he will not repent and improve. (Growth through Torah)
During the reading of this week's perashah, one may notice that the first two aliyot are disproportionately longer than the rest. Although, in other weeks, there are varying customs regarding where the aliyot may end, that is not the case in these two aliyot. Why is this perashah different?
In this perashah, we read about the sin of the Golden Calf. The only tribe that did not transgress in any way was the tribe of Levi. Our Rabbis sensed that if we would invite a non-Levi for this aliyah, it would be potentially embarrassing for him. We therefore make it a point to only invite a Levi for the aliyah that tells about the sin, to avoid embarrassing another person. Even for an event that happened thousands of years ago, we still remain sensitive to circumstances that may bring shame or discomfort to our fellow man. This holds true in all situations, whether we can identify with the person's embarrassment or not. One must always do his best to protect the dignity of his friend, just as he would want others to do for him.
Question: Name one situation in which you can do something to prevent another person from being embarrassed. When someone stumbles (and doesn't need assistance), do you try to minimize his humiliation by pretending not to notice?
This week's Haftarah: Yehezkel 36:16-38.
This week, we read a special maftir which discusses the purification process for someone who has become impure through contact with a dead body. In the haftarah, Hashem describes how He will cleanse the Jewish nation from their spiritual contamination, and help them to do teshubah and follow the correct path. Just as the ashes of the Parah Adumah were sprinkled on an impure person to make him pure again, Hashem also says, "I shall sprinkle pure water on you so you will be cleansed."
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