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 Parshas Ki Sisa - Vol. 2, Issue 17

He’ashir lo yarbeh v’hadal lo yamit mimachatzis hashekel lases es terumas Hashem l’chaper al nafshoseichem (30:15)

In the 1920s, the yeshivos of Poland were so strapped for cash that they were unable to pay for even the most basic necessities. A meeting of leading Rabbis was called in Warsaw to discuss the issue, and in order to publicize the dire straits, representatives of a number of leading newspapers were invited.

After Rav Zalman Sorotzkin finished his speech detailing the financial difficulties and appealing for emergency aid, one of the reporters cynically asked how Rav Meir Shapiro had recently succeeded in collecting so much money to build a brand new magnificent building to house his yeshiva in Lublin, and why that money hadn’t been used to sustain the struggling existing yeshivos.

Rav Sorotzkin responded, based on the comment of Rashi on our verse, by questioning why with regards to the construction of the Mishkan no donations were mandatory and Hashem relied on the magnanimity of the Jews to supply the necessary materials, while with respect to the communal sacrifices He obligated every single Jew to contribute and wasn’t willing to trust that voluntary contributions would suffice? The opposite would have seemed more logical, as everybody recognizes that the sacrifices brought in the Mishkan were more precious to Hashem than its physical structure, as the former represents its purpose while the latter is merely the means to this end.

Rav Sorotzkin answered that Hashem recognized that when it comes to collecting funds for the building of impressive edifices, people are quick to donate, but when additional funds are needed to maintain the buildings and help them accomplish their objectives, the money supply suddenly dries up.

Indeed, when it came to building the Mishkan, so much gold and silver were voluntarily donated within a few short days that it was more than was necessary, and Moshe was actually forced to proclaim that they should stop bringing more (36:5-6). Nevertheless, were it not for a requirement that every Jew donate money for the purchase of communal sacrifices, Hashem recognized that the donations wouldn’t be sufficient to maintain the daily functioning of the Mishkan.

Similarly, the function of yeshivos is the study of Torah, with the buildings merely serving as a means to enable this learning to occur. Nevertheless, people are quick to contribute money to dedicate rooms, entrances, and windows to create the physical structure, especially when that donation can be immortalized with a plaque, but few are those who are interested in giving money to pay for ephemeral needs such as food, utilities, and salaries, which are necessary to keep the building running and allow it to serve its true purpose.

Rav Sorotzkin concluded that with this psychological insight, we now understand that Rav Meir Shapiro was so successful in his fundraising campaign because the money was going toward his beautiful new building. However, when it will be finished in a few short years, he will unfortunately have the exact same difficulties covering his daily operating expenses that the other yeshivos are currently experiencing … and with which they so desperately need your help!

When we generously open our checkbooks to give charity and support institutions, let us use the lesson of the Mishkan and its donation to double-check our priorities and direct our hard-earned money to the truly noble and needy causes.


Vayomer Hashem el Moshe kach lecha samim nataf ush’cheles v’chelbana samim ul’vana zaka … v’asisa osa ketores (30:34-35)

            At the end of the morning prayers on Shabbos, and daily according to some customs, we recite a passage describing the contents of the incense which was brought in the Beis HaMikdash, but we precede it with a declaration of faith in the Unity and Might of Hashem known as Ein Keilokeinu – there is none like our G-d. As beautiful as this passage is, it is curious to note that there is no similar introduction to be said before the numerous sections recounting other sacrifices which were brought there.

            The Gemora in Yoma (26a) relates that no Kohen was allowed to offer the incense more than once in his entire life. Because this service contained a special power to bring riches to whoever merited to perform it, nobody was permitted to do so a second time.

            Based on this, the Noda BiYehuda (Orach Chaim 1:10) posits that because – in the absence of the Beis HaMikdash – a person who recites the passages dealing with the sacrifices is considered as if he actually brought them, this daily recounting of the incense service contains a unique potential to bring wealth to the one reciting it. The Rabbis were afraid that he may naturally attribute his good fortune to ëçé åòåöí éãé – his own hard work and intelligence – and therefore required that before doing so, he must declare to himself and to the entire world the Oneness of Hashem as a reminder of the true Source of the wealth he is about to merit!


V’shamru V’nei Yisroel es haShabbos la’asos es haShabbos l’dorosam bris olam beini u’vein B’nei Yisroel os hee l’olam ki sheises yamim asah Hashem es haShomayim v’es ha’aretz uvayom ha’shevi’I shavas vayinafash (31:16-17)

The Vilna Gaon questions why the Torah first writes the word olam – forever – with the letter “vov” and then just one verse later writes it without the letter “vov.”

The Gemora in Shabbos (69b) records an interesting dispute regarding the law governing a person who finds himself lost in the desert, and because he doesn’t know what day it is, is unsure when to observe Shabbos. Chiya the son of Rav opines that the person should observe the next day as Shabbos and then count an additional six days before again observing Shabbos. Rav Huna maintains that he should first count six days and only then observe the first Shabbos.

The Gemora explains that Chiya the son of Rav derives his opinion from the first person, Adam, who was created on a Friday. For him, Shabbos was the next day, followed by six days of the week and then Shabbos. Rav Huna, on the other hand, focuses on the creation of the universe, from which perspective there were first six days of the week and only then Shabbos. The law is decided in accordance with the opinion of Rav Huna.

The Vilna Gaon suggests that the anomaly in our verses actually teaches us this law. Because the second occurrence of the word “forever” is written without a “vov,” it can also be read as the word “hidden” (ne’elam). The Torah prescribes that a person to whom Shabbos is “hidden,” as he is lost in the desert and doesn’t know which day of the week it is, should follow the order of the creation of the world as per the opinion of Rav Huna, in that first there were six weekdays and only then comes Shabbos!


Vayishma Yehoshua es kol ha’am be’ra’ah (32:17)
V’shama Yehoshua yas kola ma kad m’yab’vin b’chedva kadam igla (Targum Yonason)

            In rendering the verse into Aramaic, the Targum Yonason ben Uziel writes that Yehoshua overheard the sound of the people crying while rejoicing before the golden calf. Although there is a concept called “tears of joy,” it doesn’t seem to be applicable here, in which case the happiness and the tears would seem to represent contradictory emotions. Were the Jewish people happy or sad?

            Rav Yeruchom Levovitz once said that there is no way to know whether a yeshiva student will merit a portion in the World to Come, as it will be dependent on the actions he chooses with his free will. However, one thing of which it is possible to be sure is that the student will certainly have no share in the pleasures of this world.

Even if he will one day choose to leave the true Torah path and attempt to enjoy the forbidden temptations of this world, he still won’t be able to truly take pleasure from them. After he has spent his formative years learning Torah and listening to ethical discourses about the severity of sin and the ephemeral nature of this world and its illusory pleasures, even if he decides to sin, his inner voice will nag at him so much about the foolishness of his actions that the feeling of guilt will outweigh any temporary enjoyment he may have otherwise felt.

            The Oznayim L’Torah suggests that similarly, after the Jewish people heard Hashem speak directly to them at Mount Sinai, the truth became an inherent part of them. Therefore, even though they appeared to the naked eye to be festively celebrating and dancing around the golden calf, their souls and inner voices were weeping in mourning, and it was this unique combination of superficial happiness and profound sadness and regret which Yehoshua overheard!


Vaya’amod Moshe b’shaar hamachaneh vayomer mi l’Hashem ali vayei’asfu eilav kol b’nei Levi (32:26)
Kol b’nei Levi – mikan shekol hasheivet kosher (Rashi)

The seven aliyos into which each parsha is subdivided are generally somewhat evenly spaced. However, this week’s parsha contains 139 verses, yet the first two aliyos contain a highly-disproportionate 92 verses, or two-thirds of the entire parsha. Why is this?

            The Chiddushei HaRim and Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein explain that the bulk of the parsha discusses the sin of the golden calf, a national embarrassment of unprecedented proportions. For somebody to be called up to the Torah when this sin, in which his ancestors may have played a role, is being recounted would be humiliating. However, the entire tribe of Levi proved faithful by refusing to take part in the sin and assisting Moshe in punishing the wrongdoers. Therefore, the first two aliyos, which are given to Levites, are atypically lengthened until the episode of the golden calf is completed.


Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     Is a Jewish person considered another year older on the day of his birth or on Rosh Hashana of each successive year? (Rashi, Daas Z’keinim and Sifsei Chochomim 30:16)

2)     We are not only permitted but required to desecrate Shabbos in order to save a fellow Jew’s life, whether he is in danger or being murder or for health reasons. Is it permissible to desecrate Shabbos in order to prevent somebody from taking his own life? (Nishmas Avrohom 328:6)

3)     Rashi writes (32:1) that the sin of the golden calf began with the Jewish people erring in their calculation of Moshe’s expected return from Mount Sinai, which caused them to mistakenly conclude that he had died. Their desire for a leader to replace Moshe led to the sin of the golden calf. If they believed that Moshe had died and sought a leader to replace him, why didn’t they simply appoint his older brother Aharon, and why didn’t Aharon tell them that they had erred in their calculations and that Moshe would return the next day? (Paneiach Raza, Mishmeres Ariel)

4)     Why is the sin of the golden calf traditionally considered to be the worst sin committed in the history of the Jewish people when it was only perpetrated (Rashi 32:7) by a small fraction of the Erev Rav, some 3000 people (32:28) out of millions of Jews present at the time? (Taam V’Daas)

5)     After informing Moshe about the sin of the golden calf, Hashem expressed (32:10) His desire to annihilate the entire people and start a new nation consisting solely of Moshe’s descendants. Why did He wish to destroy the members of the tribe of Levi when Rashi writes (32:26) that the entire tribe was righteous and none of them participated in the sin of the golden calf? (Meged Yosef)

6)     The two greatest communal sins recorded in the Torah are the sin of the golden calf and the sin of the spies. Presumably the former was more severe, yet through the prayers of Moshe Hashem forgave this transgression (32:14), something He wasn’t willing to do regarding the spies. In what way was that sin more serious? (Emes M’Eretz Titzmach pg. 48, Meged Yosef, Mishmeres Ariel)

7)     According to the opinion that the reading of Parshas Parah is a Torah obligation (Orach Chaim 685:7), where is this obligation hinted to in the Torah? (Aruch HaShulchan 685:7, Artzos HaChaim, Yismach Moshe quoted in Shu”t Arugas HaBosem 205, Avodas Yisroel Parshas Parah, Meshech Chochmah Parshas Chukas, Shu”t Doveiv Meishorim 2:43, Torah Temimah, Mikraei Kodesh Purim 8, Birkas Peretz Parshas Chukas, Even Yisroel Parshas Chukas, Piskei Teshuvos 685:6)

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