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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah
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Parashas Ki Sisa

The Fear That Honors

The huge banquet hall was packed. The Yeshiva's Annual Dinner was always well attended. This year was no exception. The crowd hushed silent as the emcee rose to the podium to begin his opening remarks. After a few words about the Yeshiva, he began to introduce the first speaker.

"The young man who is about to speak is the top student in our Yeshiva. He has been learning personally with the Rosh Yeshiva for the past year, and he is his closest talmid. He will now give a Devar Torah."

The young man tried to rise from his seat. He was petrified. All eyes were upon him. He knew that his every action was being scrutinized. His behavior would reflect upon the Rosh Yeshiva. You can judge the Rebbe by observing the talmid. That is what everyone would be doing. The young man would not want to do anything that would cause even the slightest smirch in the honor of the Rosh Yeshiva. Every action, every word must be perfect. That is the least he could do for his beloved teacher and mentor.

* * *

The Mesillas Yesharim, in Chapter 24, explains Yiras Chet (Fear of Sin). This is a very high madrayga (spiritual level). A person feels such a close attachment to Hashem that he does not want to do anything that will reflect badly upon Him. Any trace of sin in a person's actions is not befitting for a servant of the Almighty. His Honor is reflected by our actions. Therefore, how could we even dream of committing the smallest sin? This is the parable of the talmid of the Rosh Yeshiva. The young man would not want to do anything that lowers the honor of his leader.

The Mesillas Yesharim illuminates Yiras Chet with an example from our parasha. Moshe is instructed to make shemen mishchas kodesh (holy anointing oil), to be used only for holy purposes. He is warned, "It shall not be smeared on human flesh" (Shemos 30:32). The penalty for violation is kares (being cut off from the Jewish people). The Gemora (Horios 12a) related Moshe Rabbeinu's fear, when he anointed his brother Aharon HaKohen. Perhaps he smeared the shemen mishchas kodesh improperly. Hashem sent down a voice from shamayim to assure him that no sin was committed. Aharon was also afraid that he benefited from the oil. A Heavenly voice assured him also. Moshe and Aharon, our holy ancestors, had true Yiras Chet; a genuine fear of besmirching the Honor of the Almighty.

Kinderlach . . .

Who would want to cause dishonor to his parents? Who would want to cause embarrassment to his Rebbe? Who would want to humiliate her teacher? No one. How much more so, should we want to uphold the honor of Hashem. Just like the top student wanted to maintain the honor of his Rosh Yeshiva. This is a very high madrayga, kinderlach. However, it is worthwhile to know what the goal is. May you all merit reaching it!

No Substitute

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 Parashas 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.

Only Hashem

"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.

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