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Parshas Ki Sisa 5773
Candle Lighting Time: 5:35 pm
March 1, 2013
Volume 9 Issue 18
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Dvar Torah
 By Command Only  

By Rabbi Daniel Epstien



The first Shabbos after Purim is ShabbosParshas Parah, in which we read a section of Parshas Chukas dealing with the mitzvah of parah adumah (the red heifer).  This reading constitutes the maftir  for Parshas Ki Sisa, which deals, among other things, with the incident of Chet HaEgel - the sin of the Golden Calf.  At first glance, this juxtaposition is puzzling, yet Rashi states that the parah adumah served to atone for the sin of the egel hazahav.


In order to understand the relationship between the parah adumah and the chet ha'egel, we must explore the intentions that lay behind the making of the egel.  According to many commentaries when bnei yisrael  made the egel, they never intended to engage in idolatry.   Rather, they were attempting to fill the void left by the absence of Moshe Rabbeinu, who they feared had died when he did not return from Har Sinai at the time that they had mistakenly assumed he would.   Bnei Yisrael  had always looked to Moshe Rabbeinu as a source of holiness and spiritual leadership, and now that he was gone, they yearned for a substitute, a physical object, sanctified to Hashem, which would travel before them and from which they would derive spiritual energy and purpose.


The Meshech Chochma explains that bnei yisrael's critical mistake lay in attributing too much centrality to Moshe Rabbeinu.  We might think that Moshe Rabbeinu, the one person chosen to receive the Torah from Hashem and to communicate with Hashem panim el panim, might merit the most impressive possible title and attribution in the narrative of matan Torah.  Yet the Gemara refers to him simply as  "the sarsur," the agent.  Rather than emphasizing Moshe's pivotal role in the receiving of the Torah, the Gemara seems to downplay it.  Why is this so?


 As Jews, we believe in the one Almighty G-d, supreme and immeasurable.  However, it is precisely Hashem's limitlessness that makes it difficult for us, as mere mortals, to relate to Him.  As human beings, we relate to our world through our physical senses, and it is, therefore, helpful for us to anchor our avodas Hashem in concrete ritual objects and venues.  This is why the Synagogue and bais hamedrash (study hall) have such significance in Judaism.  Our constant challenge is to maintain awareness that people and physical objects may be conduits to kedushah, but they are not intrinsically holy.  As Jews, we do not believe that people or things have intrinsic kedushah.  People may achieve holiness only through constant, focused involvement with Hashem's mitzvos, and objects may be invested with kedushah only in accordance with Hashem's command.  This was true even of the Mishkan (the Sanctuary), which served as a physical structure in which the Shechina was concentrated and in which bnei yisrael could serve Hashem.   This lesson is implied in the Torah's constant repetition that each component of the mishkan was constructed ka'asher tziva Hashem es Moshe (as Hashem commanded Moshe), emphasizing that the holiness derived from the precise fulfillment of Hashem's command.


This was the tragic error of the egel hzahav. Although the egel  was constructed with the most spiritual of intentions, it lacked Divine sanction to justify its creation.  Absent Hashem's command, the egel was merely an icon, devoid of true holiness.  What's more, by designating the egel as a replacement for Moshe Rabbeinu, bnei  yisrael  demonstrated that their perception of Moshe was also iconic and flawed.


The parah adumah is the antidote to this misconception about the nature of kedushah.  The mystifying quality of the parah adumah  - that it served to contaminate the pure and to purify the contaminated - demonstrates that neither purity nor impurity are intrinsic qualities.  The parah adumah has no intrinsic spiritual power; it's purifying effect is exclusively a function of Hashem's commandment.  This is the  essential unifying theme of Parshas Parah and Parshas Ki Sisa:  that Hashem, through the agency of His mitzvos, is the only true source of kedusha.























Dvar Halacha


The Laws of Krias Hatorah  part 1


By Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi


Moshe Rabbeinu established that we read the Torahb'tzibbur on Shabbos, Yom Tov, Chol Hamoad, Rosh Chodesh, and on Mondays and Thursdays.  Ezra Hasofer added that we also read at Shabbos Mincha (Rambam Hilchos Tefillah 12:1 based on Gemara Bava Kamma 82a).


The Mishnah [Megillah 31a] explains the reason why Moshe instituted that Torah be read each Yom Tov was to teach people the relevant portion pertaining to that Yom Tov.  The reason why it was necessary to read the Torah on Mondays and Thursdays is to ensure that one would not go 3 full days without studying Torah.


The Gemara [Bava Kamma 82a] says the reason why Ezra added the ShabbosMinchaTorah reading was for the "yosh'vei kra'nos," which literally means the people who sit in the [street] corners.  Rashi explains this is referring to the people who sit in their stores and are involved in their business all week and, as a result, miss hearing the Torah readings on Mondays and Thursdays.  The Meiri argues, that it is referring to idlers, i.e. people who sit idly on Shabbos afternoon for they are not involved in Torah study nor are they doing any melachah.  Therefore, Ezra established Torah reading in order that these people hear words of Torah.


The Toras Chaim [Bava Kamma ibid] explains the reason why Moshe Rabbeinu was careful to make sure that specifically 3 days do not go by without learning Torah [since one is obligated to learn every day]. The Gemara [Kiddushin30b] teaches us that the evil inclination renews itself each day.  However, Hashem created Torah as an antidote.  If a person would go three days without Torah he would become spiritually weakened, and then even Torah will not work as a antidote.

The Gemara [Bava Kamma ibid] explains that Moshe Rabbeinu established that there has to be 3 aliyos, and each aliyah had to have a minimum of 1 posukEzra added that each aliyah has to have a minimum of 3 posukim and together all 3 aliyos need to total at least 10 posukim.  The 3 aliyos correspond to the Kohanim, Leviim, and Yisroelim.  Additionally the 10 posukim correspond to the "asarah batlanim."  Rashi [ibid] explains the asarah batlanim were 10 men that were not involved in work, in order to be completely involved in the needs of the tzibbur.  The Ritva [Megillah 31a] adds that one of the reasons Ezra chose 10 posukim is because it is a davar chashuv (significant) and with less than that there would be a concern that people would not come to shul.


When the aron kodesh is open before the Torah is removed, the minhag is to recite the prayer of Kel Erech Apayim (Hashem the Merciful).  The Mateh Moshe explains that the reason why we say this prayer at this point, is that we are about to read the Torah and unfortunately we have not kept the Torah in its entirety.  Therefore, immediately before reading the Torah, we ask Hashem not to punish us for not keeping all its laws.  Additionally, this prayer has 24 words that correspond to the 24 books of Tanach and to the 24 hours in a day.  We therefore ask forgiveness for not keeping all of Tanach and for not utilizing our days to the fullest.  As an aside, there is a slightly different version of this prayer which has 26 words, which corresponds to the Name of Hashem which has a numerical value of 26.




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