MARCH 16-17, 2001 22 ADAR 5761
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
When Moshe asked Hashem to let him understand the ways of Hashem, Hashem told him He would show him the back (so to speak) and not the front of Hashem. The Rabbis tell us this is a metaphor. We have to realize that when we are in a situation, as it is unfolding, we cannot fathom the ways of Hashem frontward. However, after the fact we are sometimes able to "see" from the back view what has already transpired. This will give us the necessary clarity of vision to realize what Hashem has done and to appreciate His wondrous ways. This should serve as a basis for us to have faith in Him. For if we see in retrospect how He judges and runs the world, this will strengthen our trust in Him, which will help us overcome difficult situations. May we be privileged to appreciate Hashem "from the back" as we look back at different events in our lives! Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"[Moshe] threw down the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain." (Shemot 32:19)
The sin of the Golden Calf was truly an event of enormous proportions which changed the course of history. It is astounding that someone of Moshe's awesome stature would destroy the tablets, Hashem's handiwork. Clearly he knew that he had to do so. The Midrash tells us that Moshe Rabenu broke the tablets in order to save the Jewish people from destruction. "B'nei Yisrael sinned by worshiping an idol, and I sinned by breaking the luhot," he said to Hashem. "If you forgive my sin, you must forgive them as well, and if you refuse to forgive them, you cannot forgive me either and you will have to erase me from your Torah." This amazing Midrash, explained by Rabbi M. Kimmelman, gives us a true picture of a leader's devotion.
The Jews sinned a great sin. Moshe Rabenu, however, had not sinned. He had the opportunity and the power to retain the Torah on his own as Hashem said to him, "I will make you into a great nation." (Shemot 32:10). The nation at this point were unworthy to retain the Torah for themselves. Had he wanted to, Moshe could have kept it for himself. In order to do so, however, he would have to forsake B'nei Yisrael, and that was something he was not willing to do under any circumstances.
Moshe Rabenu, the great model of the Jewish leader, had only one concern in mind when he saw Hashem's anger at the sinful ways of the Jewish people: What can I do to prevent Hashem from destroying His people? This is what proved to be Israel's salvation. The sin of the people was truly intolerable, but that was only in the absence of Moshe Rabenu. With Moshe Rabenu, the situation changed entirely.
Imagine a teacher who is angry at a class of students because of their outrageous behavior. He decides to cancel a class trip that they were looking forward to for a long time. But as he walks into the class, he sees the innocent smiling face of his best student who was absent the day before during their misbehavior. He couldn't mete out his punishment to the whole class because this would mean punishing his prize student unfairly. He also knew that this student's strong sense of unity would never allow himself to be treated differently. The only option left was to allow the class to go on the trip, and punish them less severely. Moshe Rabenu used the same concept. He knew that if he descended from his high level and joined them, he could save them, so he found a way to join them by "sinning" in breaking the tablets.
Unfortunately, our concept of leadership has been shaped and strongly influenced by our knowledge of world leaders and their behavior. Over the years, we have become accustomed to the play-acting of politicians with their "heartfelt" speeches. We might tend to ascribe to our Torah leaders the same shortcomings. The leaders of the Jewish people have always had only one thing in mind. They have always chosen the path that is best for the people regardless of the ramifications that this path may have on their own personal standing. Shabbat Shalom.
"And Moshe stood in the gate of the camp and he said, 'Whoever is with Hashem should come to me!'" (Shemot 32:26)
As a young man, Harav S. Schwab had the occasion to spend a Shabbat with the Hafess Hayim. The Hafess Hayim questioned him regarding his lineage, whether he was a Kohen or a Levi. Rav Schwab responded in the negative. The Hafess Hayim remarked, "What a pity! Mashiah is coming, and the Bet Hamikdash will be rebuilt. If you are not a Kohen, you will be unable to perform the priestly service."
The Hafess Hayim continued, "Do you know why? Because 3,000 years ago, during the incident of the Golden Calf, when Moshe called out, 'Whoever is with Hashem should come to me,' my grandfather came running to serve, but your grandfather did not respond to the call! This is the message. Every Jew has moments during his lifetime in which he hears that inner voice calling out "hkt 'vk hn - Whoever is with Hashem should come to me!" Listen! When you hear that sound, respond immediately, while the opportunity still exists."
How often does the occasion arise when we hear this inner voice reverberating within us, imploring us to go forth to act for Torah? Alas, in the frenzied pace of our everyday routine, only those few who dedicate their lives to Torah hear the plaintive cry. We may suggest that this "voice" refers to any moment of opportunity. Often in our daily endeavor we come across opportunities for spiritual growth in the form of a charitable undertaking, a special misvah, or a chance to study in a class or with a study partner. These seemingly innocent incidents are echoes reverberating from Heaven, availing us of a chance to grow. We should heed the words of the Hafess Hayim by being in the forefront of those responding to the call. (Peninim on the Torah)
The regular haftarah for this perashah is from Melachim I. The perashah describes B'nei Yisrael's confusion as to who would lead them when they thought Moshe had died. This haftarah tells of the confusion when the Ten Tribes had broken away from the rule of Yehudah, and the people did not know whom to follow.
However, we read a special maftir this week 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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