This issue is sponsored by Rabbi Chaim Wilschanski shli"ta
Vol. 24 No. 21
in honour of the birth of his two great grandchildren -
a son to Shraga and Tzipora (nee Learman) Kramer n"y
and a daughter to Nadav and Gila (nee Wilschanski) Eliash n"y
Parshas Ki Sisso
Don't Remain Silent!
"Moshe stood at the gate of the camp and announced: 'Whoever is on G-d's side, come to me!' And the whole tribe of Levi gathered to him." (32:26)
The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfo writes that there were three groups by the "Eigel": one which only requested a leader ("... who will go before us"); one which accepted the "Eigel" as a god (they were the 3,000 men who were judged by the sword); and the tribe of Levi who all remained loyal to Hashem.
The Chofetz Chayim, quoting the Medrash Yalkut, adds: "Who would not profess to be on G-d's side?" But what Moshe Rabeinu really meant was 'Who did not even donate one golden ring for the "Eigel" '. In other words, "Who sides with G-d exclusively? Who did not play any role whatsoever in promoting the 'Eigel ha'zohov'?"
The Ramban, commenting on the three groups referred to by Chazal, explains that those who sacrificed to it were killed by the sword, those who embraced and kissed it died by pestilence, and those who only rejoiced over its creation died after drinking the water which contained the gold dust of the "Eigel". We see from here, he adds, just how abhorrent idolatry is in the eyes of G-d, until even the slightest participation - even if it is just with our hearts, is considered a serious offence.
It is interesting to note that outside of the tribe of Levi, there wasn't a single Jew who is mentioned as having been exclusively loyal to Hashem. Everyone was guilty of at least minimal participation in serving the Eigel and, if not of participation, then at least he was guilty of silence.
The only people not branded as collaborators by the Torah were the Levi'im.
It is well-known how three advisers were present when Par'oh presented his plan to use the Jews for forced labour - Yisro, Bil'om and Iyov. Yisro objected, Bil'om condoned the plan, whereas Iyov was silent - he abstained. Yisro merited to "enter the protection of the Shechinah" - he converted to Judaism; Bil'om was killed by the sword - by the very people whose slavery he advocated. Iyov was stricken with suffering.
The question is asked as to why Iyov was punished. He probably felt the futility of protesting against the mighty Par'oh. Surely Par'oh, a man with an iron will, would not relinquish such a plan on his advice? Surely the consultation with his advisers was a mere formality? He wanted - and expected - their assent, and anything else would probably anger him - who knows with what result.
But, explains the Brisker Rov, when people are being hurt, badly hurt, one has no right to remain silent. So Hashem put Iyov to the test: how silent would he remain when he was made to suffer?
One cannot remain impartial when others are suffering. Even if there is nothing that one can really do, then at least a sign of sympathy is forthcoming, for to remain silent is a sign that one does not care - and total insensitivity to another's suffering is a sin.
No less with G-d. If we love Him and care about Him, then we cannot just watch as others simply reject Him and trample His Name underfoot. One must protest in the most vehement terms, doing what one can to rectify the situation and to put an end to the desecration of G-d's name. And if one is convinced there is nothing one can do, then at least a verbal protest is due - a sigh of pain. Otherwise one must be branded as a collaborator, for silence encourages the perpetrators to pursue their course; and besides, total insensitivity to Chillul Hashem too, is considered a grave sin.
* * *
Shabbos, The Luchos and the Eigel
The Parshah of the Eigel follows that of the two Luchos which, in turn, follows the Parshah of Shabbos. We need to understand the sequence of these Parshiyos. What is the connection between Shabbos and the Luchos, and what is the connection between the Luchos and the Eigel? Furthermore, why does the Torah choose to inform us here about the Luchos, when it intends to describe them anyway, immediately after the Chet Ho'eigel? Surely it would have been more expedient to simply add this pasuk (3:18) to the pesukim there (32:15-16)? Why divide the pesukim that deal with the Luchos into two?
The connection between Shabbos and the Luchos can be explained in two ways.
1. Shabbos is described as a bride, as we recite every Friday night at the end of "Lecho Dodi". Presumably that is based on the Medrash which explains how Shabbos complained to G-d that each day of the week had a partner except for herself, and how G-d replied that Yisroel would be her partner. And similarly, the very Pasuk of which we are speaking (31:18) describes the Luchos as a "Kalah" (see Rashi on the word "kechaloso"). This is not surprising, since Chazal compare Mattan Torah to the wedding-day between Hashem and Yisroel, and the Luchos to the Kesubah.
2. If the Luchos served as a contract between Hashem and ourselves - perhaps in the form of the Kesubah as we mentioned earlier - then Shabbos is the most important condition mentioned in that contract. This is much in the same way as Chazal have described Shabbos as being equal to the whole Torah, due to its capacity as a practical demonstration of emunah. In fact, this is hinted in the Shachris Shemoneh-esrei of Shabbos, where we say: "And he brought down in his hands two Luchos of stone, and on them was written the mitzvah of keeping Shabbos", as if nothing else was written on them.
Now we can also explain the connection between these two Parshiyos and the Chet ho'eigel: The Torah and Shabbos are the greatest antidotes to the worshipping of the Eigel, as Chazal have said "Even if one served idols like in the generation of Enosh, he will be forgiven, if he keeps the Shabbos. No doubt, that is because the emunah inherent in the keeping of Shabbos, is sufficiently powerful to dispel any tendency to worship idols.
The reason that the Torah mentions the handing over of the Luchos before the Chet ho'Eigel, rather than afterwards, together with the description of the Luchos prior to their being broken, is in order to create the "refu'ah" before the "makah". G-d deliberately handed Moshe the Luchos before Yisroel sinned, in order that the antidote should be in his hands ready to deliver, before Yisroel perpetrated the sin. This idea covers the second explanation.
According to the first explanation, we might interpret it like this. A man who would not dream of marrying a woman with certain faults that he abhors, might well display some measure of tolerance towards his wife, should those faults surface only after they are married. In the same way, G-d made sure that Yisroel was "married to Him" (kevayochol) before the Chet ho'Eigel, by handing Moshe the Luchos before they began to sin. Had Moshe not acquired the Luchos earlier, then Hashem would have declined to "marry a wife" with such blatant faults.
Although Moshe decided to break the Luchos, and this with G-d's approval (Shabbos 87a), nonetheless, the fact that Moshe had already received them on behalf of Klal Yisroel was now decidedly to their advantage. Firstly, it meant that they now had the antidote to their sin. Secondly, they now belonged to Hashem and were "married to Him", so to speak and as proof of this, Moshe had to prepare the second Luchos for Hashem to write on - in order to replace the Luchos that he had broken (see Rashi 34:1). Thirdly, the very smashing of the Luchos before the eyes of Yisroel must have made a deep impression on them, and must subsequently have been instrumental in inducing them to do teshuvah for their terrible sin.
* * *
The Eigel and the Poroh
It is particularly appropriate for Parshas Poroh to coincide with Parshas Ki Sisso, since the Poroh Adumoh comes to atone for the Chet ho'Eigel. 'Let the Mother come and clean up the mess made by her child' (Rashi quoting R. Moshe ha'Darshan).
The connection can be explained by the fact that, had Yisrael not served the Eigel, there would have been no more death, and therefore no "tum'as meis". It was the Eigel that was responsible for the continuance of death, and it is therefore appropriate for the mother, the Poroh Adumoh, to come and atone for its tum'ah.
The Reading of Parshas Poroh
The Mogein Avrohom and the G'ro reject the opinion brought by the Shulchan Oruch (Simon 685-7) that the reading of Parshas Poroh is min ha'Torah. The Torah Temimah (19:125) defends this opinion on the basis of R. Moshe ha'Darshan's words. There is a mitzvah, he says, to remember and to mention the Ma'aseh ho'Eigel (see Devarim 9:7). To do so directly, would cause embarrassment to K'lal Yisrael. Therefore, Chazal preferred to organise the fulfillment of this mitzvah by reading Parshas Poroh, which hints at the Ma'aseh ho'Eigel by virtue of its coming to atone for it. In this way, we fulfill the mitzvah of remembering in a dignified way.
* * *