Divrei HaRav

Ki Sisa / כי תשא

Ki Sisa / כי תשא

In this weeks parsha before the epic episode of the Golden Calf there are four subjects which are introduced: 1) the half shekel 2) the washing utensils 3) the anointing oil 4) the incense or kitores. Why are these used to introduce this terrible story of our failing as a nation? The half shekel, of course, acts as atonement, but what of the others? Perhaps it is a lesson we are being taught about what brings about an “agel”. The washing before the service in the Mikdosh represents the sanctification of our deeds. The anointing of ourselves and our vessels represents the dedication of ourselves and our deeds. And the kitores is the “sweet smell” and love with which we perform our responsibilities. Perhaps if we always have these as preparations we will never create an “agel”. On the contrary, it is followed by a command of Mishkon and Shabbos, sanctity of place and time.

The people saw that Moshe was slow in returning and they made the calf of gold. We all stand in amazement how a people who had just recently uttered the memorable words “naaseh v’nishma” could stumble and fall from such a high pedestal. The Bais Halevi answers. They had achieved a most lofty level of performance of mitzvos. At the same time, their perception and insights into the mystical and hidden ways of the Torah were enhanced. However, here lies their mistake. When one wishes to create a dwelling place for G-d without being duly commanded and without proper supervision, instead of a Mishkon, one could conceivably create a calf of gold.

Three thousand people died because of the Golden Calf. The Medrash comments “five times the value is paid for (stealing and selling) the ox.” What is the meaning of this odd statement? The Vilna Gaon explains. The Medrash explains on the possuk in Koheles “one in a thousand men I found, but not one woman amongst them”. This refers to the Golden Calf. One out of a thousand sinned and no women were among the sinners. Now the question is obvious – if they were 600,000 in number, then one of a thousand would be 600 - so why three thousand? To this the other Medrash answers that five times paid for the ox (calf). Five times 600 are 3000.

“The rich will not increase and the poor will not decrease from the half shekel.” The Chasam Sofer offers a novel p’shat. Although there is no real reward in this world for mitzvos, we are told to give a tenth to charity and it will increase our wealth. “Aser bishvil shetisasher”. In the case of the half shekel, however, it was purely as an atonement. Therefore the Torah tells us the rich will not increase - i.e. they will not get richer (from giving the half shekel) but also the poor will not decrease (their wealth), for a mitzva always protects one from loss.



Previous Parshos

Tazria Metzora Achrei Mos Kedoshim Emor Behar Bechukosai Bamidbar Shavuos Naso Behalosicha Shilach Korach Chukas-Balak Pinchos Matos-Masei Devorim Voeschonon Ekev Reah Shoftim Ki Seitzei Ki Savo Nitzovim - Vayelech Rosh HaShana Haazinu-Yom Kippur Sukkos V'zos HaBrocha Breishis