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MARCH 1-2, 2002 18 ADAR 5762

Pop Quiz: How many ingredients were needed for the incense?


"I have endowed the heart of every wise-hearted person with wisdom" (Shemot 31:6)

Hashem appointed Besalel and Aholiab to make the Mishkan and to use all those with wisdom in their hearts to assist them. If we think about it, these people had just been enslaved for many years in Egypt doing menial work. Where did anyone have experience or background to be able to create the magnificent utensils of the Mishkan?

The answer is that Hashem gave wisdom to the "wise at heart." The one who wanted to use his heart to serve Hashem was given wisdom for G-d, Who is the Source of all knowledge. This is a lesson for us. We don't have to know everything to serve Hashem; we have to want to know everything to serve Him. There is a lot of potential in us and in our children which is waiting to be tapped. It needs the will and the direction. Let's not allow all that potential to go to waste with all the distractions of today's society! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"[Moshe] said to [Hashem]: If Your Presence does not go along, do not bring us forward from here" (Shemot 33:15)

The sin of the Golden Calf is one of the great tragedies in our history. However, in the same perashah of Ki Tisa there is a most unusual conversation between Moshe Rabenu and Hashem. After Moshe prays to Hashem and Hashem agrees not to destroy the people, Hashem notifies Moshe of a new form of relationship. From now on, Hashem will send an angel to accompany the nation. Hashem will no longer be with them. Moshe tells Hashem, "You said I have found favor in Your eyes. If so, please, we want You to be directly with us - no angel." Hashem responds (33:14), "My Presence will be with you." Moshe goes for more. "????????????????????????? (33:16) - Put the Jewish people on a different level from all nations. The high level of presence and prophecy should be exclusively by us. No other nation should have it." Hashem responds (33:17), "You got it!" Moshe keeps going! "Show me Your Glory" (33:18). Hashem responds, "I will show you the maximum that a human can see without dying."

Moshe Rabenu's thrust to gain for Israel a closer relationship than ever before is amazing. However, there is something here even more startling - the timing! The Israelites are at an all-time low. They had just worshipped the Golden Calf. Is this the time to ask of Hashem for things unattainable when they were good? Imagine if an employee makes a colossal blunder that costs the firm millions of dollars. Does he go to the boss for a raise? Or does he "lay low"? Here Moshe is asking for a huge raise - and got it!

Moshe knew what he was doing. True, the Jewish people had sinned the greatest sin, but at the same time they never felt more humbled before Hashem than now. They felt like two cents. Moshe knew Hashem loves the trait of humility more than any other feeling. He knew that Hashem's love for His people was at its height. So he went for broke.

The moral lesson for us is clear. Of course we can't sin to attain humility. But at times of success, during the good times, times of good health, family, good livelihood, we bow our heads in thanks to our great Master. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

In Parashat Ki Tisa, B'nei Yisrael suffer a tremendous fall. After achieving the highest of spiritual levels at Har Sinai, after hearing Hashem speak to them directly from the heavens, B'nei Yisrael fell to the level where they made a golden calf. The question is glaring. How could a nation who had just been led out of Egypt with the greatest of miracles, who stood so recently by the shores of the Red Sea and praised Hashem with Az Yashir, who saw the great revelation at Sinai, fall so low so rapidly? A mere forty days later they asked Aharon to make a golden calf?

The question is glaring; however, the answer is simple, yet difficult to accept. Contrary to what our instinct tells us, a human is capable of one day standing at the foot of Har Sinai and proclaiming with fervor Na'aseh Venishma, and yet forty days later be asking Aharon "get up and make us a god". A person must constantly be on guard against his Yeser Hara, never being lulled into a false sense of security, for this is the opening that the Yeser Hara is waiting for. When a person thinks that he does not need to guard himself, that is when he is the most vulnerable. Mi Ya'aleh Behar Hashem - Who will climb up the mountain of G-d, U'mi Yakum Bimkom Kodsho, And who will stand in his holy place. Climbing up the mountain is only the first part of the challenge, the trick is to stay there.

But this trait of mankind, this ability to switch directions so rapidly, is also a great benefit to us. For just as a man can change from good to bad in a mere forty days, so too, and all the more so, a man can change from bad to good in a mere moment. And as Ha'Rambam writes in Hilchot Teshuvah, "Yesterday this man was separated from G-d... and today he is attached to him." No matter what level a person has fallen to, Hashem is waiting to help him come close to Him, and he can achieve great levels in a very short time. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Raymond Haber


"When you take a census...every man shall give G-d an atonement for his soul...This they shall give...a half-shekel" (Shemot 30:12-13)

Rashi writes that Moshe had difficulty understanding what Hashem was telling him; therefore, He showed Moshe a fiery coin which weighed a half-shekel. Why was it so difficult for Moshe to understand?

When Hashem spoke about the half-shekel, He called it "kofer nafsho - atonement for the soul" for Torah violations. Moshe could not comprehend how money can accomplish forgiveness for the soul. Therefore, Hashem said to Moshe, "Zeh yitnu" - They should give just such a coin (a fiery coin). The giving of a coin itself cannot atone for a grave sin such as worshipping the Golden Calf. However, if one gives with warmth and enthusiasm that stems from the fiery core of the Jewish soul, then a half-shekel can truly become the cause of forgiveness, even for sins that affect the essence of the Jewish soul. (Vedibarta Bam)


"And the people gathered themselves together unto Aharon, and they said to him, 'Rise up, make for us gods.'" (Shemot 32:1)

It seems peculiar that those involved in the sin of the Golden Calf did not choose Aharon as the leader to replace Moshe. Indeed, if Aharon was not acceptable to them, how did they have the audacity to ask him to find another leader? Rav Efraim Tzemel responds to this question with a simple but insightful answer. They desired a leader who was more politically oriented, capable of making prudent decisions which affected the community, while simultaneously maintaining his stature as a statesman and diplomat. Aharon was viewed by them as a great scholar embodying an aura of holiness that personified the Kehunah Gedolah. Moshe was the paradigm of virtue, holiness and scholarship, able to deal with Pharaoh and assume the mantle of leadership over Am Yisrael. In their opinion, Moshe was an unusual personality. A "man of G-d," whose life is completely devoted to Torah study and scholarship, should not be responsible for making "mundane" decisions regarding the community.

This was the source of the Golden Calf. Its origins were in the people's inability to accept Torah and its scholars as the only source of guidance for every area of endeavor. Such misguided beliefs produce idol worship. One who feels that a "Gadol" has no sense of earthly matters is in reality saying that Torah does not encompass every aspect of life. This is the beginning of apostasy. A person who is devoted to Torah possesses a unique understanding of issues, viewed from the pure vantage point of total immersion in Torah. The opinions of a Torah personality express "Da'at Torah". Torah minds think Torah thoughts and make Torah decisions untainted by political motives and personal vested interests. The Torah is not merely a code of religious law; it is primarily the word of Hashem, the greatest source of intrinsic value. (Peninim on the Torah)


"For this man Moshe who brought us up out of the land of Egypt we do not know what became of him" (Shemot 32:1)

Rashi says: An image of Moshe was shown to them by the Satan as Moshe was being carried in the sky. The Satan was able to deceive the Jewish people into believing that Moshe had died. The Da'at Zekenim states that there were three groups involved in the incident of the Golden Calf. One group intended only to create a leader to replace Moshe but not to make an idol of the calf. A second group accepted the Golden Calf as an idol. The third group consisted of the members of the tribe of Levi, who remained resolute in their belief in Hashem, never for one moment giving any credibility to the Golden Calf. Their exemplary display of faith in Hashem is attributed to the fact that they were the direct recipients of the Torah from Ya'akob, who in turn, received it from Abraham and Yitzhak. Their incessant study of Torah protected them from falling into the pitfalls of doubt and uncertainty. The Hobot Halebabot writes that the method employed by the yeser hara (evil inclination) to ensnare one into committing a sin is deception, clouding the truth with a veil of illusion and camouflage. It is only through the constant study of Torah that a person develops the clarity of vision to pierce through these various disguises and deceptions to see the truth. The tribe of Levi did not falter in their study of Torah, and therefore did not fall prey to the cunning of the Satan. It was their strong attachment to Hashem that gave them the courage to withstand the pressure brought upon them by their misguided brethren. It is only through the diligent study of Torah that we can face the uncertainties of life, finding courage in our belief in Hashem. (Peninim on the Torah)


This week's Haftarah: Yehezkel 36:16-38.

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."

Answer to pop quiz: Eleven.

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