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Parshat Ki Tisa

Pop Quiz: Who was killed by the people when he protested their worshipping of the Golden Calf?

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And Moshe became angry and he threw down the Tablets from his hands and shattered them" (Shemot 32:19)

In this pasuk, the letters of the word "miyado" form the singular word "from his hand." However, the word is punctuated to read "miyadav" (from his hands) The pasuk says that Moshe threw the Tablets from both hands, meaning both Tablets, but the singular form suggests that he threw down one Tablet, from one hand. We know there were two Tablets with five commandments on each one - the first five between man and G-d and the second five between man and man. The word "hand" implies that Moshe was considering breaking only one Tablet, from one hand. Perhaps he would break only the first Tablet because they sinned only between man and G-d, and not between man and fellow man. However, we read it as "miyadav - from his hands" because he actually broke both. He decided that if we don't have the laws between man and G-d, we cannot have proper laws between man and his friend. The Torah binds us together.

A confirmed story is told about Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner. He had a custom, based on the Zohar, never to make a berachah unless there was another person there to answer "Amen." One night after midnight R' Chaim was very thirsty, but couldn't drink because no one was up to answer "Amen." His thirst was very great and he didn't know what to do. Suddenly there was a knock on his door. A student from the yeshivah had a question about that day's lecture delivered by R' Chaim. R' Chaim was overjoyed at the sight of his student. He quickly made his berachah, drank until he was satisfied, and gladly answered the question. The next morning R' Chaim went over to the student to thank him for coming last night. The student looked at the Rabbi and said he didn't know what the Rabbi was talking about. He had been fast asleep all night! The only explanation was that Heaven sent an angel disguised as that student. R' Chaim bound himself to his fellow man through the misvah of berachot. With that, he merited angels coming to his doorstep. Shabbat Shalom.


"And Hashem said to Moshe, 'Hew out two tablets of stone like the first ones...And no man shall go with you and neither let any man be seen throughout all the mountain'" (Shemot 34:1,3)

Rashi says, "The first tablets were given amidst great pomp and upheaval, therefore the evil eye had power over them (they did not endure and were destroyed when the Jews worshipped the Golden Calf). There is no finer quality than modesty." Rashi explains the apparent contrast between the way the first set of tablets was given and the manner in which the second set was given. Thus the second set of tablets which was given in silence in the presence of only one human being endured. To the modern mind the suggestion that because revelation occurred amidst pomp and glory, in the presence of the whole assembly of people, the evil eye had an adverse power over them, seems somewhat strange. The idea that an "Evil Eye" had the power to influence the people and seemingly overpowered Hashem's work, would be regarded by some as an example of shallow witchery. In reality there is nothing mystical regarding the power of the "eye" of man, the superficial vision that often brings ruin, and creates havoc upon the creation of man's own hands.

A religion that appeals to the eye, a service which is beautiful and superficially impressive, will not endure the test of time. It depends on how deeply it strikes into the heart and soul of the human being. The eye is perhaps the most dangerous of man's organs and the most overpowering of human senses. Religion must be a deep personal conviction, where every man on his own communes with his own soul. If we are to succeed and endure we must try to appreciate that only through quiet, modest lives will we realize these goals. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to pop quiz: Hur, the son of Miriam.

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