FEBRUARY 16-17, 2000 24 SHEBAT 5761
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And you shall not go up the altar on steps so as not to reveal your nakedness." (Shemot 20:22)
The last verse in this perashah tells us that when we construct the ramp leading to the Mizbeah, altar, it should be a flat surface going upwards, not like stairs. The reason is that when one walks up stairs he must take a wider step which might reveal those parts of the body which should be covered. But with a flat ramp, a person can take smaller steps, without having this problem. Rashi points out that in actuality there really was no problem since the Kohanim were very well clothed and there was no possibility of anything being revealed. The Torah is teaching us, however, that this is a sign of disrespect to the ramp to walk that way and therefore we were commanded to build a flat ramp. The real lesson is not limited to the way we treat the stairs. Rather, if we should even be careful with something which has no feeling, like stairs, how much more so with people, who have feelings.
It is instructive that this verse is in the same perashah as the giving of the Torah because it is teaching us the way to be able to receive the Torah. If we treat other people, and even inanimate objects, with respect, then we show that we appreciate the qualities of people and of objects. Then we can learn from them and that is part of the process of receiving the Torah. If, however, we don't have respect for belongings or for people themselves, we will not be able to learn from others, even those who are supposed to be teaching us Torah. It is no wonder that when we see the quality of education dropping in society, the amount of respect for people and for values is dropping proportionally. We would do well to strengthen ourselves and our families in these positive values so that we could properly receive the Torah. Shabbat Shalom.
"So shall you say to the House of Jacob and relate to the Children of Israel" (Shemot 19:3)
The most important event in the history of man is recorded in our perashah. It is the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai. However, before this is to take place, Hashem offers the Torah to the Jewish people. Hashem sends Moshe to make the offer and he tells him exactly what to say. He should tell them that they have seen what Hashem did in Egypt and now if you listen to Him and observe His law you will become the Chosen People. Rashi explains: In this language and in this order. The Mechilta adds: Do not subtract or do not add any words. This seems unusual. We can understand that Hashem warns Moshe not to subtract any words when he offers the Torah. What, however, could be wrong with adding any words? Wouldn't it help for Moshe to add some explanation so the people would be more interested in accepting the Torah? The answer to this question is as fundamental as the Torah itself.
Hashem wants the Jewish people to choose freely to accept the Torah. Hashem does not want Moshe Rabenu to convince the Jewish people to accept. He wants them to accept due to the understanding of the truth and value of the Torah. Hashem does not want the people just to perform good deeds out of custom or ceremony, but to understand the truth of the Torah. Doing the misvot with this understanding will provide the desired effect of perfecting one's nature.
The job of any good Rabbi or teacher today is to show the people the truth of the Torah. People today are extremely sophisticated and wise. Once the person sees the absolute truth of the Torah, he will automatically pursue it. The Torah sells itself. No convincing is necessary. Shabbat Shalom.
"And you shall see from all the people men of valor, those who fear Hashem, men of truth, those who hate profit, and appoint them to be officers over thousands, officers over hundreds, officers over fifty, and officers over tens" (Shemot 18:25)
Since the people who were chosen to be judges over the others were highly qualified people, wouldn't those who were appointed over few people be envious of those who were appointed over larger amounts of people? This could easily have led to much quarreling and arguments. The Kotzker Rebbe replied that since one of the traits required was the attribute of truth, there would be no problem. Those who excel in truth know the falseness of honor. Since they were free from honor-seeking there would be no envy and no quarrels over power.
Honor is based on an illusion. Still, many people make honor-seeking a major focus in their lives. They constantly worry about what others will think of them. They suffer tremendous pain if they think that someone else is getting more honor than they are receiving. The more you view honor from a perspective of ultimate truth the more you will realize how trivial and unimportant honor really is. (Growth through Torah)
"You shall not make idols of silver" (Shemot 20:20)
This prohibition also includes a warning that if one makes the kerubim which stood on the Ark from silver instead of gold, it is as though one made idols (Rashi).
In time of need it is permissible to make the vessels of the Mishkan with other metals. Why is it forbidden to make the kerubim of anything else but gold?
The kerubim had the faces of children. Placing them on the Ark, which had in it the Torah, alludes to the fact that Jewish children must receive a Torah education.
The law that the kerubim can be made only form gold teaches a very important lesson: It is permissible to substitute anything with a cheaper metal, but we must give our children he best Jewish education (gold). Anything inferior is forbidden. (Vedibarta Bam)
This week's Haftarah: Yishayahu 6:1-13.
In the perashah, B'nei Yisrael experienced the greatest revelation of Hashem in history, the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai. In the haftarah, the prophet Yishayahu describes his greatest and most fearful vision. In that vision, he was shown the throne of Hashem, and observed the heavenly angels paying homage to Hashem. Yishiyahu feared that he would die after seeing this vision but Hashem assured him that he would live. Similarly, at Har Sinai, the souls of B'nei Yisrael actually left them, but Hashem revived them.
Answer to Pop Quiz: Moshe's wife, Siporah, and sons, Gershom and Eliezer.
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