How could it be? Hashem had revealed Himself to the Jewish people via open miracles of a magnitude never experienced before or since; the plagues in Mitzraim, the splitting of the Yam Suf, and the receiving of the Torah on Har Sinai. Could anyone doubt the existence or power of Hashem? Yet, only 40 days later, the Jewish people committed the Chet HaEgel (Sin of the Golden Calf), a transgression so devastating that we still feel its effects to this day. The Meshech Chochma zt"l in his commentary on Parshas Acharei Mos calls the Chet HaEgel the source of all sins between man and Hashem. Did they really think that this Golden Calf was the Almighty? The Beis HaLevi zt"l has an insight that is relevant to this very day. Of course the Jewish people still believed in Hashem! Their intention was to worship Him. However, they wanted to do it their own way. They feared that Moshe Rabbeinu would not descend from Har Sinai, therefore they needed a substitute for him. They wanted to build a structure to serve Him, the Egel. Shortly thereafter, Hashem gave them instructions for the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the proper structure for His service. Hashem is the One who created us. He gave us the Torah and mitzvos, the instruction book for serving Him. Nothing else will substitute.
Kinderlach . . .
"I like the mitzvah of tefillin, but I think that black is such a dull color. I think I will paint my tefillin green." "I am going to take two esrogim this Succos. If one is good, then two must be even better." "If I take a break from work to daven (pray) it is not really stealing time and money from my boss. Or is it?" These are all examples of wanting to do things our way. We must follow Hashem's mitzvos exactly. The only way to do it is His way.
"Whoever is for Hashem, join me!" (Shemos 32:26). This was the cry of Moshe Rabbeinu after the Chet HaEgel. "What sort of question is this?" asks the Medrash. All of the Jews were for Hashem! They had made a mistake, but no one had abandoned Hashem. "Those who did not give any gold to the Egel join me!" answers the Medrash. The entire tribe of Levi stepped forward. The Chofetz Chaim zt"l explains that Moshe Rabbeinu only wanted those who were totally loyal to Hashem. With no compromises. The Netziv zt"l elaborates that one who is "only for Hashem" devotes his whole life and all of his energies to loving and honoring Hashem. He has no other agenda. He does not serve himself at all; rather he is dedicated completely to Hashem.
Kinderlach . . .
Who among us can say that he is completely for Hashem? This is a very high madrayga (spiritual level). It can take a lifetime of work. How do we begin? Realize that Hashem is the only power in this world. We can not place our faith in technology (like cars, computers, and cell-phones), politicians, wealth, or military strength. These are only agents to carry out Hashem's will. One who is totally for Hashem is not attracted to these things. Therefore, filter out distractions and focus on Hashem. When you are learning are you only learning? Or are you taking breaks to play, eat, or talk on the cell-phone. When Imma is speaking to you are you only listening? Or are you also looking at a book or listening to a tune. Now is the time to begin training yourselves, kinderlach, to focus on Hashem. Put all of your energies into doing His mitzvos. Then you will be one who answers the call.
Moshe pleaded. But Hashem was adamant. The people had committed a grievous sin. Hashem would not go up with them into the Land of Milk and Honey. He would send an angel instead. If He accompanied them and they sinned again, He would have to annihilate them. "Hashem, Hashem, G-d, Compassionate, and Gracious . . ." (Shemos 34:6). Hashem instructed Moshe to say these words of prayer. The Gemora (Rosh Hashanah 17b) states, "Whenever the Nation of Israel sins, let them pray this prayer and I shall forgive them." What is so special about this prayer? The words describe Hashem's Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. He is Compassionate and Merciful in every way possible. We appeal to His Mercy, and He in turn is merciful upon us. That seems simple. However, it is not the whole story. Rav Leib Chasman zt"l notes that the prayer alone will not help unless we do tshuva (repentance). We must correct our mistakes. We are asking Hashem to have mercy upon us. We can arouse His compassion by being merciful to others. This is the area of tshuva that brings Heavenly Mercy. As the Gemora (Shabbos 151b) states, "All who have mercy upon Hashem's creatures, receive Mercy from Heaven." The Yalkut Shemoni on Parshas Eikev instructs us to act with kindness toward everyone.
Kinderlach . . .
Every person that you see is an opportunity for chessed. Do you see someone in a hurry? Move aside to let him pass. Is your sister sad? Smile at her to cheer her up. Is Imma overwhelmed with housework? Wash a few dishes. Is someone speaking to you? Pay close attention to him. Does your chavrusa (study partner) have difficulty understand the material? Explain it again. And again. Say thank you to Imma for preparing lunch for you. These acts of kindness are like diamonds. They seem small, but they are so precious. They can arouse Hashem's Mercy and save the Jewish people.
Kinder Torah Copyright 2002 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman
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