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by Daneal Weiner
May the zechus of this Rav Wolfson d’var Torah be merit for the refua shelaima of Tamar Tema bas Leah Devorah, family and friends.
Parshas Ki Sisa
opens with Hashem speaking to Moshe saying, “When you take a census of the Children of Israel… this shall they give, everyone who passes through the census, a half [silver] shekel…” Who is the everyone the Torah felt necessary to qualify? The Jerusalem Talmud says it means “everyone who passed through the sea,” that is, through the splitting of the sea. If that were true it would seem even the Levites and Priests would be included in the census. We know they are not. The Zohar says, “Those who passed [transgressed] the mitsvos.” This also requires an explanation.
Ahead in Parshas Pekudai (28:38) we find, “And the 1,775 [shekel] he made into hooks for the pillars.” Moshe is giving Israel an accounting of all the silver shekels donated towards the building of the Mishkan- Sanctuary and the Midrash says that when it came to the last 1,775 shekel he became anguished that he couldn’t remember were it went. Finally Hashem reminded him they went to make the hooks for the posts of the courtyard on which to hang the curtains. Another version of the Midrash says the soul of Rebbe Akivah came to Moshe and reminded him. The building of the Mishkan is the Torah itself! How does Moshe forget such a thing?!
The Gemorah Megillah says that Haman came across Mordechai teaching a class and asked him what he’s teaching. Mordechai answered, “The Omer offering.” Rashi adds that the date of this encounter was the 16th of Nissan, the second day of Pesach on which the Omer flour offering began to be brought. Haman responded, “Your handful of flour thwarted my 10,000 talents of silver!” Tosofos says, “I heard that the 10,000 talents of silver comes out to a half shekel of silver for each one of the Children of Israel who were 600,000 coming out of Egypt. He [Haman] said [to Achashveirosh] he would redeem them [for their extermination].” There were actually 603,550 Jews who came out of Egypt. It seems unlikely that Haman couldn’t afford the last 59 talents plus change. Why didn’t he pay for all Israel in full? These are Rav Wolfson’s three opening questions. And so begins their answers.
Amongst the Children of Israel who came out of Egypt were those whose actions caused them to be expelled from the Clouds of Glory. They were from the Tribe of Dan, the last in the procession of the 12 tribes as they traveled through the desert. Chazal- Our Rabbis of the Talmud say members of Dan had taken the idol micha with them out of Egypt! Rav Wolfson believes it enough to say it was these Jews whose ½ shekel contributions did not make it to be the silver sockets of the very walls of the Mishkan but ended up as the hooks of the courtyard. The hooks were hung on the outside of the courtyard posts, likened to the Jews who donated towards them.
Yet another parallel may be found in the last 8 verses of the Torah which narrate events after the death of Moshe. The Gemorah Menachos brings one opinion that these verses were written by Yehoshua. There is a Kabbalistic idea that every one of the 600,00 souls of Israel is rooted in the 600,000 letters of the Torah. Perhaps the letters written after the death of Moshe were those souls expelled from the camp in the time of Moshe. The other opinion of the Gemorah holds that Hashem told Moshe to write the Torah and it is not a Torah if even a single letter is missing. Therefore Moshe must have written the last 8 verses but in tears.
Furthermore, the very last words of the Torah are, “L’ainai kol Yisrael”- before the eyes of all Israel. Rashi says the Torah is referring to the breaking of the tablets which was done before the eyes of all Israel. The Gemorah says that if we merited receiving the first tablets we would have retained every bit of Torah we ever learned. When the tablets were broken forgetfulness was introduced into the realm of Torah. Rav Wolfson maintains that when Chazal said that during the mourning period of Moshe, [it’s forbidden learning Torah while mourning] 3000 laws were forgotten, that figure reflects those souls over 600,000 who were forgotten from the camp. On them it is written in Isaiah 49:14, “Vatomar Tsion, ‘Azavani Hashem, Adoshem shicheichani.’ ”- Zion said, “Hashem has left me, my L-rd has forgotten me.”
This can explain how it’s possible Moshe could forget where the last 1,775 shekel of silver went. Since that silver was donated by those souls who, the impression is made, were forgotten by Hashem Himself, certainly from Moshe they were to be forgotten. And Amaleik attacked those souls thinking once forgotten meant forgotten for good. But the rest of the verse in Isaiah is, “Zion said, ‘Hashem has left me, my L-rd has forgotten me.’ [Hashem answers,] ‘Can a woman forget her baby? Even she may forget, v’ani lo eshkachaich- But I will not forget!’ To Hashem, forgotten means remembered and eventually forgiven. As it says in the Megillah (9:28), “And these days will be for remembering and celebration!”
Our first introduction to the hooks of the Mishkan was back in Parshas Teruma where it says, “Vavai ha’amudim vachashukayhem kasef”- the hooks of the posts and their bands of silver. The Sforno writes, “The word chashukayhem means divukayhem (roughly translated as ‘that which causes them to cling’) as we’ve seen them used [interchangeably] back in Breishis. [Verse 34:3], Vatidbak nafsho b’Dinah- and his [Shchem’s] soul became attached to Dina. Also [34:8], B’ni chashka nafsho bivitchem- my son’s [Shchem’s] soul longs deeply for your daughter.” The hooks may appear to be beyond the limits of the courtyard but in reality they are clinging to the Mishkan. Their souls are attached to the sanctity. They long deeply to be well within the camp of Israel.
Now we can understand why Haman, who wanted to see every Jew killed, didn’t feel it necessary to redeem more than the 600,000. Because, following the tradition of his ancestors, he understood that those Jews who were gone and forgotten were forgotten for good. No need for even a copper penny over the 10,000 talents of silver paid for the 600,000 Jews who left Egypt. Measure for measure we are given the mitsva to erase the remembrance of Amaleik from under the heavens. Just as Amaleik attempted to destroy those who were forgotten, we are told to remember and not to forget to erase even the remembrance of Amaleik! (Say that three times fast.)
A couple weeks back we brought an analogy from the Gemorah Megilla showing how Haman and Achashveirosh were partners in the attempted genocide of Israel.
They’re like one who owns a field with a hole and one who owns a field with a large mound. While happening across each other’s fields the hole owner asked, “Who will sell me this mound?” The mound owner asked, “Who will sell me this hole?” A time later the two owners met each other and the one asked, “Sell me your mound so that I may fill up my hole.” He replied, “Come and take it and it’s yours for free.” Thusly did Achashveirosh give his ring to Haman [to annihilate the Jewish people.]
It stands to reason that just as we must erase the remembrance of Amaleik, so too must we erase the remembrance of Achashveirosh! What a coincidence! We read in the Megillah [and as my friend, Brad Jacobs says again and again and again, every time the name Achashveirosh is mentioned], “Vyhe bemay Achsveirosh hu”- And it was in the days of Achashveirosh. Who???
The Gemorah Sanhedrin takes a look at three words in Zecharia (10:11), “V’avar bayam tsara”- Misfortune will pass through the sea. Chazal say this is the idol micha! Rashi explains the words hint to the idol micha which passed through the split sea with Israel on their way out of Egypt. What tremendous love Hashem has for all Israel! Even as we stumble, even as we’re hiding an idounder our clothes- an idol!- Hashem still splits open the sea and brings about our salvation. What unconditional love!!!
This is precisely what the Chasam Sofer wrote when he said that the time the miracle of Purim began was when Achashveirosh’s feast was under way and he became angry at Vashti. The sin of the Jews was their participation in that feast! While we stumbled in sin Hashem was performing miracles to bring about our salvation. Both times are salvation came due to the influence of the 50th Gate of Wisdom.
When we exited Egypt the Torah says, “V’ chamushim alu Bnei Yisrael m’erets Mitsrayim”- Armed is how Bnei Yisrael went out from Egypt. The Zohar says, “Don’t read it chamushim, but chamishim- 50. We didn’t deserve to be taken out. Another moment in Egypt and we would never have gotten out! The 50th Gate got us out.
Haman wanted to hang Mordechai from a gallows 50 amos high as an attempt to defeat Mordechai at this pure source. The Gemorah Megillah asks where we find Mordechai in the Torah? It answers from this weeks parsha, “Mar dror”- pure myrrh. A bad plan of attack by Haman. [Onkolos translates Mar dror into Aramaic- Maira dachia- almost the name Mordechai itself.] The 50th Gate of Wisdom is a place where the purest unified essence of Israel resides. Our source of sanctity which can never be destroyed nor even tainted. And that’s why even while carrying the idol micha, “v’avar bayam tsarah” = 625 = Sha’ar hanun- the 50th Gate.
This explains the language of the Jerusalem Talmud when it said “everyone who passes through the census” means “everyone who passed through the sea.” Even those who stumbled in sin by carrying the idol are still to be included in the census of the Children of Israel. There still is hope for them.
The Zohar gave the same message its own way when it said, “everyone who passes through the census” means “everyone who transgressed a mitsva.” They will also give the silver ½ shekel to be made into the hooks. Although they’ll be outside the courtyard they will still be chashuk and davuk to Israel and will not be forgotten by Hashem. And so “everyone who passes through the census”- ha’ovair al hapikudim = 616 = lo lanetsach yishachach evione- “the pauper shall not be eternally forgotten” (Psalms 9:19).
Maybe this can take this answer and apply it to the question, why do Chazal always refer to Israel as having 600,000 souls. They say Yisroel is an acronym for Yeish Shishim Ribui Osios Latorah- there are 600,000 letters to the Torah. Our other name, Yeshurun is an acronym for Yeish Shishim Ribui Nishamos- there are 600,000 souls. But The Torah counts and says it’s 603,550?!? Our Sages want us to be on our toes. To always be cognizant that there’s no such thing as standing still. We are either getting closer to Hashem or are heading for the outer limits. And the outer limit isn’t the limit. There’s bumped out too! But when the Torah counts it counts everyone who passes through the census. Every soul will be counted!
The Alshich Hakadosh writes that the cantillation mark over the words, “v’es ha’elef”- And the one thousand [from the 1,775 shekel he made into hooks] is called an azlah gairaish. He says the melody of the azlah gairaish sounds like someone who had just remembered something. Furthermore, gairaish shares the same root as gairushin- divorce. Another hint at those Jews forgotten from Moshe. Forgotten till Hashem reminded him their silver went to the hooks for the courtyard pillars. V’es ha’elef = 523 = Chodesh Adar- the month of Adar. And these days [of Adar] will be for remembering and celebration!
Perhaps you and I can speculate the other version of the Midrash, that the soul of Rebbe Akivah reminded Moshe where the forgotten silver went, using two well known Gemorah’s on Rebbe Akivah. The first says Hashem showed Moshe a class given by Rebbe Akivah which Moshe couldn’t understand. Moshe was uneasy till one of the students asked for the source of the Torah being taught. Rebbe Akivah answered, “It is law transmitted down from Moshe from Sinai.” Maybe Moshe not understanding Rebbe Akivah’s class was Moshe not ‘relating’ to the Jews expelled from the camp? Him not ‘relating’ to the last 8 verses of the Torah? I believe it was Rabbi Ezriel Tauber whom I heard say that Moshe is the Rebbe of Israel in Israel and Rebbe Akivah was the Rebbe of Israel in exile. Rebbe Akivah could reach to where Moshe Rabbeinu couldn’t.
The second Gemorah says Rebbe Akivah so despised the Sages that he said he if he could he would bite one like a donkey [whose bite can break the bone]! Yet when he saw the drops of water eating away the rock he said, “If something as soft as water can penetrate a rock, certainly Torah could penetrate the flesh of my heart.” In an instant he did a turn about. Maybe he reminded Moshe where the forgotten silver went because he exemplified those forgotten souls who, in an Adar/Purim instant could bring themselves back in?
How much does Hashem love us when the parsha in which we’re going to commit the sin of the golden calf opens with “everyone who passes through the census” will be counted?! Even the golden calf, the sin of all sins regarding which the Gemorah says, “No suffering comes to this world that isn’t in someway due to the sin of the calf,” is prefaced with the message, “Don’t worry. No one is out forever.”
I heard from a Rav Nachman Bulman an incredible Midrash (in addition to the just mentioned Gemorah). In our parsha Hashem says to Moshe, “Lech, raid.” Two expressions for ‘go’. One command was in the spiritual sense and one was in the physical sense. Moshe was only in heaven for Israel’s sake and they fell in status so he had to go. In Devarim, when Moshe is reminding Israel not to repeat their past mistakes, he recounts the events of the calf saying, “Hashem told me, ‘Descend quickly from this.’ ” Not “from here.” “From this.” There is a principle that when the Torah says ‘this’ something is being pointed at. The Midrash expounds on these words saying that when Hashem told Moshe to go because Israel had fallen Moshe was so grief stricken he didn’t know how to get down from heaven till Hashem searched under His throne and said, “Moshe, go down quickly through this opening!” An incredible Midrash!
Although the language of this Midrash is unique I am reminded of a Gemorah Rav Wolfson once brought which says the wicked king of Israel, Menashe, does not have a share in the world to come. It goes on to say, however, that even though the angels kept him from approaching Hashem’s Throne, meaning they withheld from him the opportunity to repent, Hashem dug for him a tunnel under His throne. The Torah may say a person can reach a point where they will be forever lost and not allowed back, which the angels were operating by, but Hashem, Who created the Torah, says no one will be forever lost. Maybe we can tie Rav Bulman’s Midrash and Rav Wolfson’s Gemorah into his message on this parsha.
Even while Israel is stumbling with the golden calf- the sin of all sins- Hashem is already performing miracles to bring about our salvation. He’s created a hole under His Throne for Moshe’s sake, who just prayed for Israel’s salvation, and that hole will become the tunnel by which the worst, the most rejected, the furthest expelled souls of Israel will be able to make their way back to the Throne of Hashem.
The months of the year were divided between Yaakov and Eisav, meaning potentially good times versus bad times for Israel. Originally it was a 6-6 split. When Yaakov bought the birthright from Eisav he gained 3 months in the deal. Not complete months (i.e. 1st –30th) rather 30 day blocks (i.e. mid-month to mid-month). Teves, and Shvat are times of Din- Judgement. Those two months are Eisav’s. ‘Not good’ times. Adar had fallen to the lot of Eisav as well but it’s second half came into the domain of Yaakov. A turn about. A reversal of fortune.
We said the end of the Torah, those final verses, are the last souls questionably association with Moshe. We said Adar, which is the last in the order of months, corresponds to the last tribe in the procession and to those Jews who were expelled from the camp of . Obviously the ideas overlap. Not as obvious is that both ideas apply to Moshe’s time and to all time! The final verses correspond to THIS final era in time, the Ikvisa d’meshicha- the footsteps of the mashiach. Likewise does Adar. We are the souls of Adar during the Ikvisa d’meshicha. Souls which stumbled into the 50th Gate of Impurity. We couldn’t be farther out than we are! OY! But remember and don’t forget, Adar is more than a symbolic ‘turn about.’ It literally takes us from grief to gladness. And these days will be for remembering and celebration!
This time of the year is the most encouraging for our Jewish soul! It awakens within us our potential to change our path in life and to change our bad traits just as quick as the moments it takes to decide to do so. [Important note; one shouldn’t confuse the second it takes to make a decision with the hours, days, years of hemming and hawing whether or not to make the decision.] Purim day is when the power of Adar is most concentrated. I consciously felt this power one Purim. I had been 19 months in yeshiva, the first yeshiva I had ever experienced, and I walked into the Beis Midrash Purim morning for services and I felt I was improperly dressed before the King. No, I was not wearing my Chiquita Banana costume. I was dressed in my usual fashion. After approximately 500 days of learning in the Beis Midrash, approximately 1500 prayer services already prayed with no problem, suddenly I was mildly ashamed! The next morning, I assure you, I had no such feeling. I had to decide whether it was the power of Purim or a statistical glitch. By Pesach I had bought my first hat. O.K. so it was only a Shabbos - Yom Tov hat, but I felt it, I acknowledged it, and I did something about! A year later I bought my first weekday hat. [Hey, I said we have to get on the right path, not become perfect overnight!]
The Zohar calls the entire month of Adar an eis ratsone- an opportune time [before Hashem]. The constellation of the month of Adar is Dagim- fish. The letters which spell Dagim, daled, gimel, yud and mem can be rearranged to make the acronym for yud gimel mechilin d’rachmai-13 channels of mercy. During this leap year the 12 months become 13 and it opens the 13 channels of mercy to their fullest.
Every Shabbos afternoon in the Mincha service we say, “Va’ani t’filasi licha Hashem eis ratsone”- As for me, may my prayer to You, Hashem, be at an opportune time. Every Shabbos afternoon is an eis ratsone, a special time of desire and willingness of Hashem to here our prayers. It is for these reasons that the Siddur Hatanya writes it is a most worthwhile custom to eat fish by the third meal of Shabbos. To partake, during this eis ratsone, of that which Hashem put into the world as the carrier of a power of eis ratsone, the yud gimel mechilin d’rachmai. And what is the source of the fish? The yam- sea! Yam has the numeric equivalent of 50, an allusion to the 50th Gate from which we merit the unconditional love Hashem channels down to us. How much more fitting is it to have some fish this Shabbos’ third meal in these months of Adar!
If you recall, the constellation of Adar is not just fish but 2 fish facing opposite directions! It takes us from grief to gladness! Forgetfulness turns into remembrance and celebration!
May Hashem help give us the strength to switch to the path of the just. To use all our traits only for His sake. May all our reversals of fortune be only for the good and all good. Our down-to-earth kind of good. May we of these final generations, the last in the procession of time, even we who have sunk to the 50th Gate of Impurity, may we merit the coming of the mashiach, the rebuilding of Hashem’s sanctuary, and all Jews returning to the camp.
Have an about face and fishy Shabbat Shalom!
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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