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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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In honour of the birth of our granddaughter Hadasah on 11Ador.

Ch. 30, v. 13: "Zeh yitnu kol ho'oveir al hapkudim machatzis hashekel" - This shall they each give each one who passes through for the census a half-shekel - The gemara Kidushin 39a says that when a person is challenged to sin, he should imagine that he and the world are at this very moment half and half, standing in the position of their merits and sins bearing equal weight. If he were to sin, he would bring himself and the whole world into the sorrowful state of being more sinful than meritorious. This is alluded to in our verse. "Zeh yitnu," this concept shall they place into their hearts, "kol ho'oveir al hapkudim," all who are on the verge of transgressing the commands, "machatzis hashekel," the balance-scale is at half and half. (B'eir Mayim Chaim - Admor of Chernovitz)

Ch. 31, v. 13: "Es Shabsosai tishmoru" - My Sabbaths you shall safeguard - Why is this repeated so shortly afterwards, in 35:2, "Uva'yom hashvi'i yi'h'yeh lochem kodesh Shabbos Shabbosone"? The medrash says that Moshe broke the "luchos," which served as a sort of marriage writ between Hashem and the bnei Yisroel. Their turning away and serving the golden calf was as if they were unfaithful to their husband Hashem, as it were. Without this writ the sin is somewhat ameliorated. At this point the bnei Yisroel were extremely concerned about Shabbos observance. If they were now relegated to a non-bnei Yisroel status they were not only absolved from observing Shabbos, but were even prohibited from doing so, as "nochri sheshovas chayov misoh." Moshe therefore reassured them shortly after the incident of the golden calf that they still retained both their status as bnei Yisroel and the mitzvoh of Shabbos. (Rabbi Yoseif Chaim Sonnenfeld)

Ch. 32, v. 4: "Va'yikach mi'yodom" - And he took from their hands - The Holy Zohar writes that had the donours given their gold to Aharon, and not placed it directly into his hands, but rather, upon the ground or the like, or even if Aharon received it directly into his hands, but would have placed it upon the ground before forming it, a golden calf would not have emerged.

Ch. 32, v. 27: "Ochiv" - His brother - Rashi explains that this refers to a maternal brother. In a previous issue we have cited the question of Rabbi Zvi Pesach Frank in Har Zvi. He wonders why Rashi waited until parshas V'zose Habrochoh (33:9) to explain in detail how it is possible for a Levite to kill his father, son, or brother, given that no one from the tribe of Levi sinned. Rashi there explains that a father means a grandfather through his mother, who need not be a Levite, a son is a grandson through a daughter, again not necessarily a Levite, and a brother, again as here, a maternal brother. He answers that although only the tribe of Levi in its entirety was sin-free, but some other innocents from the rest of the tribes likewise assembled. Moshe spoke to all the assembled and all relatives were mentioned. In parshas V'zose Habrochoh Moshe is blessing the Levites for their actions against a father, son, and brother. This requires Rashi's elaboration. According to this, Rashi's explaining here that a brother is specifically a maternal one is puzzling.

Another answer was offered. In our parsha a "father" is not mentioned. A "son" needs no clarification since Rashi has already told us that a parental grandchild is considered like a child (Breishis 20:12). Once mentioned in parshas V'zose Habrochoh and Rashi finds it necessary to explain that a father means a maternal grandfather, he likewise says the same for a son. It seems that the reason Rashi here in Ki Siso bothers to explain that a brother means a maternal one is because Rashi never heretofore established that a maternal sibling can have the title of brother.

Another answer is now offered:

The Ibn Ezra and others (Rabbeinu Bachyei disagrees) explain verse 29, "Va'yomer Moshe milu yedchem," to mean, "And Moshe had already told them 'milu yedchem'" (see Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh). At that point in time the assemblage was not yet complete. Moshe simply didn't know that absolutely every Levite would respond to his call of "Mi laShem eiloy" (verse 26). This answer is only viable with the just-mentioned explanation of why Rashi here clarifies only "ochiv." (Nirreh li)

Ch. 32, v. 34: "Uv'yom pokdi ufokadti a'lei'hem chatosom" - And on the day of My reckoning and I will reckon upon them their sin - Rashi says that once Hashem agreed to not ch"v annihilate the nation in one go, He would administer the punishment in small portions, adding a bit of the punishment for the sin of the golden calf to any later punishment for other sins. The medrash offers a parable. A king was angered by his son's behaviour to the degree that he warned his son that if he were to again behave improperly he would have a very large rock, to which he pointed, thrown upon him. As you correctly surmised, the son did it again (or else what kind of story would we have). Having the rock thrown upon anyone would mean immediate death. However, the word of the king, especially when uttered in front of numerous ministers, was binding, and the king realized that his threat was made too hastily. His top advisor gave him top advice. He suggested to have the rock broken into many smaller pieces, and then to have it thrown piecemeal on the wayward prince. The application is self-understood. Rabbi Chanoch Henoch, the Holy Admor of Alexander, interprets the words of our verse in a positive light. When in the future the bnei Yisroel will ch"v sin and Hashem will have to decide their fate, He will never ch"v annihilate them. "Uv'yom pokdi," and on a future day when I will have to calculate their punishment, "ufokadti," I will "remember" My response to their sinning with the golden calf. If I didn't annihilate them then, I can surely be lenient now.

This should not be taken as a lax attitude towards positive or negative mitzvos, but rather, as an appreciation of Hashem's endless love for His people.

Ch. 33, v. 4: "V'lo shosu ish edyo olov" - And they did not PLACE each man his ornaments upon himself - This is the simple translation of "shosu." If they did not place their jewellery upon themselves, how do we understand the command Hashem gave Moshe in the next verse to relate to the bnei Yisroel, "horeid ed'y'cho," remove your ornaments, and also "va'yisnatzlu" of the following verse?

The GR"A therefore offers a different translation for "shosu." In Shmos 7:23 the verse says "v'lo SHOS libo gam l'zose," and Paroh did not take to heart also this plague. We have a source from these words that "v'lo shosu" can mean "and they did not take to heart." Although they were adorned with two crowns which they were attired by angels upon their saying "naa'seh v'nishma," they did not take to heart that now that they had sinned so grievously, it was inappropriate to still wear them. The cantillation for the word "shosu" is a "tvir," which serves as a comma, indicating a separation between this word and "ish edyo olov." We should therefore translate "v'lo shosu" as, and they did not take to heart (to remove his crowns), "ish edyo olov," each man his ornaments remained upon him. Hashem then told Moshe that they should remove their crowns, which they did.

Ch. 33, v. 16: "V'niflinu ani v'amcho" - And may we be unique I and Your nation - Moshe requested that his uniqueness be tangible and that the nation likewise be unique. The uniqueness of the nation is realized in their having the Divine Spirit rest upon its prophet, while this would never be the case with the nations of the world (see Rashi). Moshe's palpable uniqueness took place when his face shone, "karnei hode." (Sforno)

It seems that according to the Sforno the following words, "mikol ho'om" serve a double purpose. The verse tells us that his request was for "Your nation of all the nations on the face of the earth," but where is the, "I of all the nation"? We should understand the words of our verse as follows: "Ani v'amcho" - "Ani mikol ho'om," and "Amcho mikol ho'om asher al pnei ho'adomoh."



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a

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