Back to this week's parsha| Previous Issues

by Daneal Weiner

Ooooo'Boy! Hope everyone had as 'smashing' a Purim as I. I fulfilled the requirements of all opinions when it came to drinking and I NOT a single opinion when it came to benching, davening Mincha or davening Maariv with a minyan. OY! Hopefully when that case comes up in court Mordechai will have a little mercy on me and come to my defense. But I woke up dressed for Shabbos!!! Good thing I decided against the costume and opted for the suit.

As long as I'm bringing up my faux pas, I wrote in the Purim edition that the Megillah begins with a letter 'vav', ends with a 'vav' and almost every column starts with a 'vav'. It's the Torah scroll in which almost every column start with a ‘vav’. In the Megillah, almost every column starts with the word 'hamelech'- the king. Once, back in Breishis I said Lot's daughter named her son Amon. She named her son Ben Ami and Amon descended from him. Twice I told Rav Wolfson's d'var Torah of the 5 parts of the name of Hashem. The four letters and the crown on the yud. The Yud doesn't have a crown. It has a short line extending upward. In Hebrew it’s called a 'kotes' which means 'thorn'. A perfect description. I misinterpreted the ‘kotes’ for the 'tog' which is the 'crown'. The vort itself was 100%. Just if someone went to look at the yud, they would not have found a crown and would have had to wonder what I, or worse, what Rav Wolfson was talking about. In fact, one would be hard pressed to even see the kotes as a fifth element in and of itself and not just the style of the letter. But this ‘kotes’ is a topic of deep and lengthy discussions.

Along these lines, what better time then the present to bring up the golden calf from last weeks Ki Sisa. A remarkable event! After all that Bnei Yisrael had been through, witnessed, experienced, and prophesied, and they still built a golden calf!? I heard a very sharp talk by Rav Osher Rubenstien.

There is a debate in the Gemorah regarding the 40 days after the revelation, how many days were Bnei Yisrael with G-d and how many days were they with the calf. The opinions vary from 39 days with G-d and 1 day with the calf to 1 day with G-d and 39 days with the calf. Then Rav Meir sites from Psalms (78:36,37) "...and they [Bnei Yisrael] deceived Him [Hashem] with their tongues. But their heart was not constant with Him..." and says they lied! Bnei Yisrael lied to Hashem when they said "na'aseh v'nishmah!" Those two great words which sent the angels in a tizzy and they were a lie?!

We need to understand what is even meant by this discussion as to how many days we were with G-d or with the calf. No one knew the calf was coming so how could it have been an option?! Rav Rubenstein explains that Chazal- the Sages did not specifically mean the golden calf. They meant ANY opportunity for idolatry. How long were Bnei Yisrael committed to Hashem and how long was it before their old desire for idolatry overcame them? It's argued that Bnei Yisrael were not looking for an idol but for a leader to replace Moshe because they said to Aharon, (32:1) "...make for us 'elohim' that will go before us for this man Moshe...we do not know what became of him." Although 'elohim' literally means gods, (plural), Elokim, a Name of G-d, is also plural but refers to One. At this point they may have been genuinely asking for a leader. The problem with that argument is the verb, 'will go' is in the plural form. They weren't interested in A leader. They were interested in gods!!

So come on, G-d!? They just spent 210 years in Egypt! They're out not even two months! Yes, there were undeniable miracles and You fed them and watered them and spoke to them, but 210 years versus 2 months?? Ok, so there's a little poison still in their system. But intellectually they said "We are with You, G-d!" They said "na'aseh v'nishmah!" Cut them some slack, huh?

If only it was a set back! If only it was a craving! But does Hashem call them idolaters? Does He call them sinners? Does he call them rebellious? What does Hashem call Bnei Yisrael? (32:9) "...they are a stiff necked people!" What is He saying? "They're stubborn! Moshe, they don't want to change! I saved them, I did for them, I provided for them, I spoke to them. They all saw Truth! They all know the truth! And they don't want to change! Where will the remorse or regret come from? What will make them repent? Even if I give them time, they don't want to change! What can I do with such a people but to destroy them and start over."

Some one told me a story of a Rabbi talking to a particular secular crowd. Professors, psychiatrists, ones who fancied themselves as intellects. The Rabbi was presenting them with one of the relative proofs of G-d's existence. However long into the talk, a gentleman in the audience jumped up and shouted, "Stop him! Stop that man! Keep him quiet! If he says one more word...I will have to change my life!" And he quickly left the room. Incredible! Which is more incredible? Him realizing the truth and having to leave, or others who might have heard it and were able to stay knowing they weren't going to do a thing about it? As the story goes, after the talk the Rabbi tried to find out who the gentleman was but no one would say. Is it a true story? I have no reason to think the person who told it to me would lie. CAN it be true? Absolutely. I'm guilty of it myself.

One need not be ultra-secular to be guilty of this crime. It's not just a Jew walking away from a seminar or the parents of a Ba'al Tshuvah, suddenly not wanting to listen to what their children have to say(*). Even the most desiring Jew, who hopes to grow every day in his/her own observance can harbor such undesirable feelings. "I'll grow at my pace but you want to tell me something I haven't heard before? What? Says who? Yah, sure!" (* A young man I know filled with the Purim spirit, or spirits I should say, called home to beg his folks to listen, look, read, think... Things he could never say any other day of the year came pouring from his heart. In 'good stride' the parents knew he was drunk and emailed back not to worry, they have a special relationship with G-d. Of course, the young man knows the relationship which is exactly why he's worrying!)

This amplifies the greatness of Purim which we discussed last week. Purim was a time of 'kimu v'kiblu', when the Jews 'confirmed and undertook' upon themselves and their descendants to observe the will of Hashem. This time with their tongues and a full heart. These are the ancestors we need to model ourselves after. Without a Sadam, I mean Haman to encourage us along. Of course, there are nothing like Tel-Avivians. Or are there?

A major Israeli newspaper, based out of Tel Aviv, ran a story of a religious woman from Bnei Barak who was leaving the mikvah with her 9 children and was raped by three Romanian workers. The paper said she was told by the Rabbinate that since her husband was a Kohen- priest, they would have to divorce. Needless to say, the article was picked up by all papers. All hearts went out for this women. Let the 'Chareidi Rabbi bashing' begin. All the feminists groups where speedily organized into protest rallies against the power hungry, insensitive, chauvinist, coercive religious monopoly. One Chareidi Rabbi from Jerusalem felt he had a legitimate ruling which would allow the couple to stay married. He called the journalist to get the couples name and the courts phone number. The journalist wouldn't help. He then called every single court in Bnei Barak to find out who gave the ruling. None did. This lead to further questioning and further investigation. Much to the dismay of the journalist, the story was found to be a fabrication. A lie! There was a tremendous relief in the Chareidi community that such a horror story didn't occur. Do all the others feel the same or were they sorry to see her go?

As evil as this was, it was the actions of individuals. Commentaries say Sodom and Amorah were destroyed not just for their wickedness but because they institutionalized it. They made it the law of the land. So G-d caused sulfur and fire to rain from the sky and destroyed them. 7 years after scud missiles landed in the Tel Aviv area, missiles which were feared to be carrying chemical and biological warfare- just weeks after the threat of it happening again- Tel Aviv passes legislation permitting public desecration of Shabbos. G-d have mercy on their souls. How deaf, dumb and blind can people get? (Was that P.C.?)

For the 7th plague of hail, Moshe warned Egypt to bring in their servants and cattle from the fields so they would not die. After being pummeled by 6 plagues the Torah tells us Egyptians who feared the word of G-d brought them in. Even if it was just for economic reasons, the Torah still calls them G-d fearing! Because those who didn't fear the word of G-d didn't!!! At their own expense they would not even listen!! Not even to bring them in for 15 minutes to see if Moshe was right!! If it came from G-d, forget it! So there seems to be no limit to how deaf dumb and blind people can be. This year I have a very special box of hand matzos. Made by the hands of Jews who are searching for the truth. If you would have been in that matzo bakery you would have thought you stepped into the twilight zone. Chassidic garb, Litvish garb, slacks and shirts, jeans and t-shirts, crew cuts, hair cuts, not cut, one young man with dread-locks down to his mid back decorated with metal wires and bones and another whose head was pierced more times than my mother's and my sisters' put together. All at various (very various) stages of their development in their search for the truth. The one with the dread-locks couldn't stay more than a month. He had blown off most of his trip around the world but his situation in the states wouldn't allow him to cash in the remainder of his ticket. But now, on the final leg of his trip, on his visit to India, he wasn't going to ask some guru on a mountain for the meaning of life. He was going to ask the guru to take a picture of him against an awesome backdrop painted, as it only could be, with the brush strokes of Hashem.

After wanting to spend a page on this and spending 3, it's a good thing I only wanted to spend a few lines on this weeks double parsha, or is it a triple

Parshas Vayakhel/Pekuday-Parah.
35:30-32> Moshe is telling Bnei Yisrael that Hashem picked Betzalel to head the construction of the Mishkan. Hashem "filled him [Betzalel] with a G-dly spirit..." Ok, very nice, "...with wisdom, insight and knowledge..." I suppose those things are good, "...and with every craft- to weave, work gold silver, cut stone and carve wood." WOA!! THAT TOO!?! Could he know that and live??? Something seems to be out of order with these verses. Shouldn't the Torah have started with the physical wisdom and then listed the divine wisdoms? That answer is yes, IF they would be talking about the same thing! But referring to different things, the order becomes obvious.

Rav Chaim of V'lozhin had an employee collect charity for his Yeshiva. They had one special Ba'al Tseddakah- a wealthy man they could always count on for a substantial sum of money. Once Rav Chaim gave his fund-raiser money to buy a new suit. Feeling very good about finally representing the Yeshiva in a well dressed and respectable manner, the fund-raiser was sure he would be able to get even more from their special supporter. He didn't get a drachma! Not one ruble. Not a single kopeck. Nisht nickel! Returning empty handed, Rav Chaim felt it was worth his time to investigate the sudden change of heart.

The Ba'al Tseddakah said to Rav Chaim, "I don't mind at all supporting the boys learning Torah. But when your representative showed up in a new suit, I couldn't trust where my money was being spent." Rav Chaim asked for a Chumash and opened it to the above mentioned verses. He said to the Ba'al Tseddakah, "When all Bnei Yisrael came to donate their precious gifts to build the Mishkan, you could imagine a little what the scene was like. 'Psst. Hey, Betzalel. You'll use my gold for the holy ark, yeah?' Wink. Wink. 'Betzalel. I have a daughter about your age! By the way, my gold has got "Menorah" written all over it! Huh? Yah? Huh? Yah?'" (some writers embellishment in the dialogue-ed.)

Now Rav Chaim points to these verses and says, "You see what Hashem did? First He gave Betzalel divine spirit on all levels! What Hashem gave him was the ability to mind read! To heart read! To know which of the pure metals were given with the purest of intention because only those would be worthy of becoming the holiest articles of the Mishkan. And then G-d gave him the craftsmanship to make it all happen. For a Yeshiva to operate, it certainly needs a holy Torah scroll, holy books, and to feed the boys. But it also needs cleaning supplies and toilet paper. Even to buy the fund-raiser a new suit. But we haven't the divine wisdom today to sort out the donations. Although it is all necessary for the survival of the Torah institution, we have to trust in Hashem to sort out the money according to intentions of the donor."

Which brings us to "V'aileh pikudai haMishkan"- And these are the reckonings of the Mishkan. The Yetser Horah never sleeps, rests, nor closes his eyes. Where ever, when ever and how ever he will grab what he can. When the men gave to the golden calf they grabbed the jewelry off their wives necks and ran to give it. And now that Bnei Yisrael has given generously and magnanimously to the Mishkan, some instigated, "Not that we don't trust you, Moshe, but you mind telling us how much the donations were and where everything went?"

There is a Midrash that when Moshe gave over the accounting, when he came to the last 1775 shekels of silver, he suddenly drew a blank! He couldn't remember where it went. The 'natives' suddenly began to grow restless. Finally a Bas Kol, a voice from heaven came down and accounted for the missing silver. It went into making the hooks. Rav Osher Reich points out that of the 8 verses which give the accounting of the precious metals, 7 of the verses open with cantillation marks which are of a lower key and even dip a few notes. Only the verse accounting for the last 1775 shekel opens with a sharp rise. A hint to the voice from on high which spoke those words. Like Rav Chaim of V'lozhin learned, in the heavens they, indeed, keep track of all donations. Even those which go to make just a bunch of hooks.

This week is also Parshas Parah. We read the verses from Bamidbar regarding the offering of the Parah Adumah- the Red Cow. A service which purifies the impurity of having touched a corpse, as it impurifies the pure who perform it. It is the quintessential 'choke'- a command from Hashem for which we know no reason. We are told it is an atonement for the golden calf. For the lack of belief/faith Bnei Yisrael had that Moshe would return, we show our belief/faith in performing the service of Parah Adumah.

Rav Wolfson brings a Gemorah Avodah Zarah which says that if the Jews at Mt. Sinai did not sin by the calf then they would have lived forever! Another measure for measure reparation of the Parah is it's purifying the impurity caused by the sin which necessitated it's institution. We saw this somewhere once before, a sin bringing death to the world. Adam and Chava were also to live forever till they sinned. They sinned by eating from a tree of knowledge. If belief is activated at a time when the intellect can not offer explanation, then 'knowledge' can be said to be the 'opposite' of belief. More to the point, Adam and Chava's sin in wanting to acquire the knowledge of this tree was an expression of a lack of faith which took away their immortality.

There's more. The Ohr Hachaim Hakadoshe says in the name of Chazal that if Adam and Chava had just waited a short time till Shabbos (They were created late into the 6th day) then they would have been able to eat from that tree. So another parallel to the sin of the calf was this impatience- which actually is the manifestation of not having the knowledge to assess the situation (which they weren't supposed to have) and not believing that if they just did what they were told then everything would work out perfectly, very shortly.)

To expound on the Ohr Hachaim's point, Rav Wolfson quotes the Rav from Rodzhin who says the verse in Breishis, "And from all the trees of the garden you may eat, and from the tree of knowledge of good and evil you will not eat from it" can be read as follows, "And from all the trees of the garden you may eat AND from the tree of knowledge of good! And evil you will not eat from IT!" Somehow, waiting till Shabbos would have awarded Adam the opportunity to eat of only the good from the tree and not the evil. Rav Wolfson notes that "Umay'aits hada'as tov"- "and from the tree of knowledge of good" = 702 = "Shabbos".

A final twist is that back in the beginning of Shmos, before Mt. Sinai, Bnei Yisrael had just come out of the split sea and went three days into the desert and did not find water. They came to Marah and the waters were bitter. Hashem showed Moshe a stick, he threw it in, the waters became sweet, everyone drank, (15:25) "There He [Hashem] established for the nation a decree," a choke! What was the choke? Rashi says, "The Parah Adumah!" So this Parah Adumah was commanded relatively long before the golden calf happened!?

The atonement of the Parah Adumah was for the sin of Adam and Chava! Then, by the revelation of Mt. Sinai, we reached a level of Gan Eden, pre sin, and achieved immortality! The choke of the Parah Adumah was abolished! But shortly thereafter, Bnei Yisrael committed a comparable sin to Adam and Chava and the Parah Adumah was once again instituted, this time for the sin of the golden calf! Darn shame!

As we end the month of Adar, a month in which Hashem seems to be hiding from us, a month in which our enemy Amaleik had tried to destroy us, ("Amaleik" = 240 = "safek"- doubt, a deterioration of knowledge) we read about the Parah Adumah and give ourselves a boost of faith. A boost in our belief that even though we don't understand all world events, if we just do what we're told everything would work out perfectly, very shortly. And on this same Shabbos we bless the coming of the month Nisson. After talking about it all Shmos and strengthening our belief we are now ready for the actual time of the redemption. May we merit it this year, this month, this week!

As I'm writing this there is snow falling out my window! Snow is a sign of Din- Justice! r'l. All Yerushalayim shut down. My Rav puts it, that when Hashem wants us to know our service is hindering more then helping He sends a little snow and hinders us. 2 days ago was a dust storm! It wasn't hot. Just strong winds and a sawmill's worth of dust everywhere. That was for our service of old habit we throw up at Him without even dusting it off to make it look like it's new. I guess after not responding properly to that He just figures, "keep it" and sent the snow. But this is still Adar! The power of 'nehapuch hu!'- Turning it around! And it introduces Nisson! And in both months Bnei Yisrael went from suffering to salvation! May it be so even before this megillah hits the wire! Have a faith-full, dust free, shoveled clean, pray-for-Jews-in-Tel Aviv Shabbot Shalom!

Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues