lluminations #24, Adar 5775, Parshat Ki Tisa

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Illuminations #24, Adar 5775, Parshat Ki Tisa

Torah Gems

The sin of the Golden Calf is deeply troubling to say the least. Klal Yisroel were the direct recipients of Hashem’s kindness as Hashem intervened on their behalf to alter the course of history and free the entire nation from slavery. Never before did the world witness Hashem’s direct intervention in human affairs on such a large scale. They had seen miracles and had experienced the revelation at Sinai where they perceived the very presence of G-d (see Deuteronomy 4:34). These events haven’t been lost on the world as even gentile nations trembled upon hearing about the Exodus as we describe every day in Az Yashir. Even modern-day historians dubbed it a “unique demonstration of G-d’s mightiness on their behalf…The most remarkable event in the whole history of nations (History of the Jews).” In this context, it is difficult for the mind even to attempt to understand how Klal Yisroel could have resorted to a form of Idol worship a mere 40 days after Sinai.

​R’ Dessler offers a penetrating insight on the matter. The key to the answer lies in the very question itself. These G-dly ordained events were exactly that—directly from Hashem—and we were merely the recipients of His kindness. Klal Yisroel’s high level of piety preceding the sin came not from their sweat and toil, rather it was a gift from Hashem – a direct result of miracles. Because their piety was not built from the ground up, it lacked a solid foundation and like a giant edifice built on thin air, it collapsed. Immediately after the sin, the nation began the arduous process of Teshuva where they slowly built themselves up through their toil. Having now stood on firm ground, they would be ready to accept the second luchos.

​Miracle-stories and inspiring, feel-good speeches loft a person into transient all-too-temporary growth in the service of Hashem. But to grow truly into a servant of G-d, one must be ready to work hard in slow but constant steps to develop a rock-like stance in the service of G-d. Only such a foundation can brave the tests of time and will not topple in the smallest of winds.

Parsha Pearls

In this week’s Parsha we see that Hashem says to Moshe that the entire nation had sinned by serving the Golden Calf. R’ Mattisyahu Solomon points out that it says the entire nation sinned when in fact only 3,000 people were involved in the making and worshiping of the Golden Calf. Why then is the entire nation blamed for this sin? Similarly, when the Nevi’im are giving rebuke to Klal Yisrael, they spoke harshly of the entire nation being idol worshipers, while in reality only a small sect was doing so.

R’ Mattisyahu Solomon explains that, ‘Kol yisrael areivim ze laze.’ We are a cohesive unit, not unlike separate limbs of the same body. We are a nation of which we are all responsible for one another. If we do not stop our brethren from sinning, it is as if we have sinned ourselves. Although only 3,000 Jews served the Golden Calf, everyone is held responsible since it was in their power to be able to prevent it from happening. Throughout the Torah there are many instances that the entire nation, for good or for bad, is viewed as a whole when only a part had done something. This is the same in Navi; the Nevi’im rebuke the entire nation for being idol worshipers since although not all of them had committed the sin, those who did not serve idols should have stopped the ones who did.

We find a similar concept at the beginning of this week’s Parsha with the machatzis hashekel. Klal Yisrael were commanded to give a donation of a machatzis hashekel, a half a shekel, as opposed to a whole shekel, as a contribution to the Mishkan. R’ Sampson Rafael Hirsch explains that,  “Not even the most complete and perfect contribution of any one individual can accomplish the whole of the work that must be done. The effort of any individual can be only a fragment of the whole. An equally selfless sacrifice of his brother is required in order to produce the whole.” We are all parts forming the whole of our nation. We each play an integral role in its formation. Let us live up to these high standards and be sure only to contribute our very best by being the “Kingdom of priests” we can be!

Glimpses of Greatness

A snow storm had settled on the city of Jerusalem. The residents, unaccustomed to such weather, had remained home. A lone man trudging through the streets of Jerusalem saw a puzzling sight. In the distance, he could make out the figure of a fellow clad in black, dancing and twirling in the snow. As he approached the man, to his utter shock, he was able to discern that it was none other than the saintly R’Shach! Upon seeing the man’s questioning look, R’Shach explained his conduct: “I just came out of the house of the Brisker Rav where I heard beautiful chidushei Torah. Whenever I hear beautiful words of Torah from the Brisker Rav I am filled with such excitement that I want to break out in a dance. Normally, I am embarrassed to dance, for I am afraid people will see me, but today since it is snowing I figured the streets would be empty.”

Halacha Weekly

Q. Should women have their own minyan for Megillah reading and have a woman read the Megillah for everyone?

A. In the Ben Ish Chai it states: “Everyone is obligated to read the Megillah, men and women. However, although women know how to read the Megillah, they should listen to it being read from a man, and that is the custom in Yerushalyim, where it was never heard that women read from the Megillah themselves.”
Many other Gedolei Yisrael (leading Torah authorities) such as the Vilna Gaon and Magen Avraham say that it is a woman’s obligation to listen to the Megillah reading and not read the Megillah. Thus, according to these authorities, a woman may not have fulfilled her obligation by having her own minyan of women with a woman reading the Megillah to them.  It was never a minhag Israel (Jewish custom) for women to make a separate minyan for themselves with a woman reading the Megillah for them.
Q. Why is it so important to preserve authentic Jewish customs?
A. When one changes the accepted Jewish customs by rationalizing that they are no longer applicable or pertinent in our times, one is in effect changing the face of Judaism and jeopardizing the very existence of the Jewish people.  Therefore, making a separate minyan led by a woman reading the Megillah is not permitted.  Many times a woman’s minyan is needed for childcare reasons and the like, but the Megillah should be read by a man. This has been the custom of Israel and the position of leading Torah authorities for many generations, including our time as well.

In honor of our hard working rabbis:
Rabbi Shmuel Khoshkerman
Rabbi Eliezer Cohen
Rabbi David Kapenstein
By Jacques and Amy Elfersy