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Torah Reading Shemot 30:11 - 33:35
Haftorah - I Kings 18:1 - 39
The Sin of the Golden Calf is the central issue of this week's Parsha. Over the past few weeks we have dealt with various aspects of this transgression. But who committed this deed and why does it have to be remembered in such detail?
We noted (in last week's Vortify) that about 3,000 people died in the retribution taken by the Levites in the camp of Israel (Shemot 32:26 - 29). We have already established in the two previous Vortify's that the service in the Tabernacle (and later in the Temple and later still, through organized daily prayers) was an atonement for the sin of the golden Calf.
Shemot 32:4 states:
"And he [Aharon] took [their gold] from their hands...and fashioned it into a molten calf; And they said, 'This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.'"
If the transgressors were Israelites, they should have said...this is OUR god. Instead they said "...this is YOUR god, O Israel." Rashi points out that it was actually the Eyrev Rav (the mixed multitude of peoples who joined the Israelites during the Exodus) speaking.
The question that we must ask is: If these 3,000 were the transgressors and they constituted only one half of one percent of the population (out of a total of 600,000 men), why was the atonement of daily service given to ALL the generations of Jews? Why didn't the Manna cease? Or why didn't the clouds of glory cease to protect the Israelites? What was the actual sin that was committed?
The answer is found in this fundamental principal of Judaism: Kol Yisrael Areyvim Zeh Lazah (All of Israel is responsible for one another). What is the connection? Though the guilty were punished, we all share in the guilt and we all must atone for the transgression since we are in effect responsible for one another. We allowed this abomination to take place and therefore, our sin is one of collusion.
A similar situation occurred during the Roman conquest of Israel. The Talmud while discussing the cause of the destruction of the second Temple, tells the famous story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza:
A man wanted to invite his friend, Kamtza, to a party. Instead, by mistake his messenger invited Bar Kamtza, his enemy. When Bar Kamtza arrived (believing that this was a gesture of peace), the host wanted to evicted him. In order to spare himself the embarrassment, Bar Kamtza offered for the whole party if the host would agree to let him stay for a short a while and leave in dignity. The host refused all of Bar Kamtza's offers and had him evicted, which was observed by some of the greatest and most influential Rabbis of that generation. Bar Kamtza vowed to get even and began a series of political maneuvers that eventually led to Caesar of Rome waging war against the Jews and destroying our holy Temple. In documenting this story, the Rabbis explained that our Temple was destroyed because of Sinat Chinam (random hatred).
But, whose Sinat Chinam - just the hosts? No, the Talmud says that the Rabbis acted in collusion with the host and caused great damage to the person of Bar Kamtza by not interfering and stopping the host.
With the destruction of our Temple, the Jewish people suffered a loss that includes the exile we're in, as well as our homeland and our judicial system, among other things. We have become objects of scorn among the nations of the world. Our spiritual base has disintegrated and our lives have been placed in turmoil. All this because a few individuals didn't get involved when they should have.
Someone once explained to me the reason that Moshe Rabbaynu (Moshe our teacher) was chosen as the instrument of Hashem's redemption. He said that there are three scenes of Moshe mingling among people - all in one chapter. In the first scene Moshe sees an Egyptian striking an Israelite, and he gets involved. Then he sees two Israelites arguing, and again Moshe gets involved. Finally, after he fled Egypt, he sees the daughters of Jethro attempting to water their sheep at a well and other shepherds forced them away. Again, Moshe got involved (Shemot 12:11 - 20).
Hashem's choice of Moshe as His vessel of freedom was among other reasons that Moshe could not bear to see injustice happen and mind his own business. Whether it was gentile versus Jew, or Jew versus Jew, or gentile versus gentile - Moshe got involved, he interfered and tried to correct the situation, even if it meant his own harm. This was Moshe's great virtue, for this he was chosen to become the father of all prophets, the teacher of Israel.
We know that it is common today to MIND OUR OWN BUSINESS, to turn our heads and ignore the behavior of those among us. Our Parsha this week teaches us that as Hashem's chosen people, that option is unacceptable. If we take that path, it leads to national calamity. But, I believe that when we must get involved, we must display Ahavat Chinam (random love) for our fellow man and become vessels of Hashem's redemption. The choice is yours, do what is noble.
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