Ki Tisa • Shabat Parah

March 14th, 2020

18th of Adar 5780


The Power of Torah and Willpower Are Vital for Life

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"I have filled him with a G-dly spirit, with wisdom, insight, and knowledge, and with every craft" (Shemot 31:3)

The significance of the Mishkan that Betzalel built was in the fact that it was built using the Holy Names of Hashem (Berachot 55a). A House of G-d is fitting to be called such only if it is cast of substance. Betzalel was given this name because he was 'בצל-קל', in the shadow of G-d, meaning that the shadow of Hashem accompanied him continuously.

From where did Betzalel have the knowledge of constructing the Mishkan using Hashem's Names? We are not told that he went up to Heaven where he was informed of them or any other similar occurrence. The answer could be that when Hashem sees a person displaying self-sacrifice for a lofty purpose, He immediately sends Heavenly insight to assist him. This is what happened with Betzalel. Hashem observed his intense desire to build the Mishkan in the best possible way, therefore He revealed the Holy Names to him, with which he would build the Mishkan and its vessels. It was as if Betzalel had ascended to Heaven and heard Hashem explaining this to Moshe Rabbeinu.

In fact, each person possesses his own 'shadow', which is the Torah that he learnt in Heaven. This is why there is a compelling claim against one who forsakes this shadow and does not exert himself to develop novel Torah insights. Since Moshe went up to Heaven and learned every novel Torah concept that any person would ever introduce, the Torah is no longer considered to be in the Heavens. This is why each person is obligated to follow that shadow and toil in the Torah. Any person who thinks up novel Torah insights is called a 'Betzalel'. When a Jew shows desire and interest in the Holy Torah, then Hashem discerns this will and grants him Divine assistance, as if he was Betzalel.

In a sefer that one of the Kollel avreichim wrote, it tells of my master and teacher, HaGaon Rabbi Gershon Libman zt"l, who was once approached by a talmid when he was in Lakewood, with the following question: When the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah built the second Beit Hamikdash after the churban, the young people were filled with great joy and they danced and pranced about in honor of the Beit Hamikdash. However, there were older people who still remembered the first Beit Hamikdash and these elders raised their voices in a bitter cry that could be heard even above the joyful sounds of the youngsters. This talmid wished to understand why the elders cried so bitterly and did not rejoice that the Temple was finally rebuilt. Besides, why did they find it appropriate to cry just when the youngsters rejoiced? The Gaon Rabbi Gershon Libman’s zt"l explanation is recorded in the sefer and it is truly inspiring.

I would like to suggest a possible answer. There is a distinct difference between the Mishkan that Betzalel built, the Beit Hamikdash that Shlomo built and the second Beit Hamikdash that the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah built. At the time of the Churban, all wondered, "For what reason did the land perish?" And Hashem answered them: "Because of their forsaking My Torah" (Yirmiyahu 9:11-12). Those elders who cried, saw the younger generation returning from the Babylonian exile, naked of Torah and mitzvot and saw how they stood in stark contrast to the generation that lived at the time of the first Beit Hamikdash, that was called the 'Dor De'ah', the generation that was overflowing with Torah. The elders who cried also knew also that the first Beit Hamikdash had been built using the Holy Names, which was not the case with the second Beit Hamikdash. They also understood that the Torah and the Holy Names intensify each other and give each other vitality and the ability to exist. But when there is no Torah and no Holy Names, the Beit Hamikdash cannot stand for long, this is why they could not understand their rejoicing.

The elders cried especially when the youngsters rejoiced, in order to arouse them to repent and study Torah, for then the Beit Hamikdash would be able to remain standing long term, in all its glory and greatness. As of now, many spiritual assets that were present at the time of the first Beit Hamikdash were missing.

This seems to have been Betzalel's approach. He possessed such a fierce desire and longing to make the Mishkan just as Hashem wished, so the wellsprings from which he could attain the Names of Hashem, immediately opened up for him, so that he could use them to build the Mishkan. This follows the dictum of Chazal (Makot 10b): "A person is led on the path that he wishes to take".

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: "The word of Hashem came to me, saying, 'Son of Man…'" (Yechezkel 36)

For the Maftir of Parshat Parah, we read the section that tells us how the contaminated ones were purified with the water from the ashes of the Red Heifer. The Haftarah, too, tells us that in the future Hashem will purify His children with the waters from the ashes of the Red Heifer. This expresses our longing for the future redemption, which we yearn to merit speedily in our days.

Guard Your Tongue

Disgracing a Talmid Chacham

Disgracing a Talmid Chacham involves a much more severe sin than disgracing an ignoramus since these degrading words prevent others from advancing in their avodat Hashem. They will cause people to say, why should we ask him to determine our halachic debates if he is not proficient? And so each person will decide to do whatever he feels is correct.

Walking in Their Ways

The Nation Survives

Once when I was on my way to Eretz Yisrael, I had a stopover in Frankfurt, Germany. From there, I needed to take a connecting flight to Eretz Yisrael. When we reached Germany, the plane circled the airport for about forty minutes instead of landing, as the airport was congested with other planes landing.

During this time, it occurred to me that this ‘enlightened’ country spread out beneath me, together with other countries, produced many terrible enemies that have constantly tried to obliterate the Jewish nation. In the days of Mordechai and Esther, Haman tried to destroy our people. We were saved only in the merit of teshuvah. In later times, Hitler, that horrific despot, may his name be obliterated, tried to wipe us off the face of the earth.

However, the Jewish nation will endure. Despite the meticulous plans of these various enemies to annihilate Am Yisrael, our nation blossoms and flourishes and establishes Torah institutions wherever they are. At the German airport, I prayed Shacharit and donned tefillin. Again, I thought to myself, in the days of Hitler, mach shemo, which Jew could stand in a public domain and openly pray without fear? In order to drive home this message, a gentile stewardess approached me and asked politely if I would like a quiet room for my prayer.

This is the far-reaching extent of the eternity of Am Yisrael. Despite all the enemies who have tried to obliterate us, Am Yisrael is the eternal victor.

Words of the Sages

"When you take a census of the Children of Israel according to their numbers, every man shall give Hashem an atonement for his soul when counting them" (Shemot 30:12)

The Ba'al Haturim writes: The word 'ונתנו', they shall give, when written backwards, spells the same word - 'ונתנו'. This teaches us that a person will get back whatever he gives to charity and he will not lose out from his generosity in any way.

A person who down below in this world fulfills 'ונתנו', merits that Hashem will rain down on him 'ונתנו' from Above.

Once the holy Admor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Riminov zya"a, blessed a Jew with 'good parnassah'. This fellow eventually became extremely wealthy, in an inestimable way.

The chassidim approached their Rebbe and asked: "Why did the Rebbe give so much money to one person? This amount is fitting to be shared out among several people?"

The Admor answered: "I was not the one who gave him this tremendous wealth! I only blessed him, and he, through his deeds, increased and intensified the blessing to such great proportions!"

The explanation is: This person cleverly realized that the right thing to do was to use his wealth to dispense charity. The more his blessing grew, so did his charitable donations. He was not satisfied with the amount that he gave in the past. And since he increased his 'ונתנו', Heaven increased 'ונתנו' in the same measure. His numerous charitable deeds were what increased the blessing until eventually, he merited enormous wealth.

It is not logical for a person who earns one thousand, to give a certain amount to charity and then when he earns ten thousand, to continue giving the same amount…

If a person does not understand that he should increase his charitable donations, and instead "Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness (צדקתו) endures forever", his charity endures, meaning it remains at a standstill, then Heaven too will not increase its blessing.

But if he understands that from one thousand one separates one hundred, and when Hashem blesses him with ten thousand, he should donate one thousand, then'האלף לך שלמה', the thousand that you give will be 'לך', a source of blessing for you. The blessing in his money will expand above what it previously was.

This is what the Admor explained to his chassidim: That person who I blessed, he was the one who cleverly knew how to increase the blessing. The quantity did not come from me.

This is definitely not an easy or simple feat. Every person naturally has his calculations that prevent him from giving: "I also do not have parnassah", or "I am not less needy than he is" or, "I am saving every dime to buy myself an apartment, how can I give?" and so forth.

Changing one's outlook requires hard work. One must internalize that never, but never, does one lose from giving. And not only does one not lose from giving, but also from giving and giving once again, one only gains!

Still, even one who is blessed with the attribute of good-heartedness and is happy to give, must pray to Hashem for guidance to give to the right causes, to places of Torah and holiness.

Some people are far from Torah observance and although they do much kindness and donate generously from their assets, they support all kinds of pathetic causes, for example, sports clubs or corrupt culture centers, may Hashem have mercy.

One should add a special prayer not to stumble with giving to dishonest people and to merit that one's money should go to genuine charity causes so that Hashem should be pleased with our actions.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Moshe's Prayer for Bnei Yisrael After Their Sin

"Moshe pleaded before Hashem, his G-d, and said, "Why, Hashem, should Your anger flare up against Your people, whom You have taken out of the land of Egypt, with great power and a strong hand?" (Shemot 32:11)

Moshe Rabbeinu prayed to Hashem, begging for mercy for the people, to save them from annihilation due to the sin of the Golden Calf. Why, particularly in this prayer, did Moshe Rabbeinu plead 'את פני ה', 'before Hashem', whereas with other prayers we do not find this expression?

With siyata dishmaya I would like to suggest the following answer: How did Moshe Rabbeinu rescind Hashem's anger? Hashem told Moshe that He will annihilate the people "and I shall make you into a great nation". Moshe Rabbeinu was not convinced and was prepared to forgo this great honor. What was his reaction on hearing this? Immediately "Moshe pleaded (ויחל) before Hashem". The Gemarah tells us that the word 'ויחל', pleaded, comes from the expression 'חולין', mundane (Berachot 32a). This implies that Moshe negated himself, he considered himself an ordinary person and gave up this honor. This is what he said to Hashem: If You consider me so important that You wish to make me into a great nation, it is a sign that when you said, "I am Hashem, your G-d" at Har Sinai, You were speaking to me face to face. It is with this merit that I ask You to forgive the people. They may have mistakenly thought that You are only talking to me, since they were not given the Commandments directly by Hashem, besides the first two. This is why they allowed themselves to sin with the Golden Calf. If so, please do not be angry with them, for it was with me that You spoke at Har Sinai.

Hashem accepted Moshe' s prayer and reconsidered. Later Hashem wrapped Himself in a tallit like one leading the congregation in prayer and showed Moshe the order of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. Wrapping oneself in a tallit signifies that the one leading the prayers is including the entire congregation in his prayers. So too, Hashem signified that He was embracing all of Am Yisrael.

It seems to be that the main merit that enabled Moshe's prayer to be accepted, and in which merit Hashem forgave the Jewish people, was with the power of Hashem speaking to Moshe face to face at Har Sinai. The Torah hints to this by saying, "Moshe pleaded 'את פני ה', before Hashem, his G-d". With the merit of 'פנים אל פנים', 'face to face', Moshe pleaded with Hashem to forgive Yisrael for the sin of the Golden Calf.

When Moshe asked, "Show me now Your face", Hashem answered him, "You will not be able to see My face, for no human can see My face and live" (ibid 33:18-20). As long as a person is alive He cannot look directly at Hashem's glory, for materialism contradicts spirituality. When Hashem created Chava from Adam HaRishon's rib, He cast a deep sleep upon Adam HaRishon so that he should not see Hashem's face. When materialism faces spirituality, it gets scorched from the pleasure of the holiness. In the face of this holiness, all other fleeting pleasures that characterize materialism are considered as nothing and materialism is annulled.

Pearls of the Parsha

The Wheel Turns

"Every man shall give Hashem an atonement for his soul" (Shemot 30:12)

The Vilna Gaon explains why the word 'ונתנו' is read using the cantillation mark (ta'am) 'kadma v'azla' (literally meaning get up and go). It hints to the Gemarah (Shabbat 151a) that tells us: Rabbi Chiya told his wife that when she sees a poor person, she should give him bread before he asks, so that her children too will be taken care of in their time of need, before they ask.

She asked him, 'Are you cursing me'? To which he replied, 'It is the way of the world that a wheel turns round'.

The word 'ונתנו' can be read backwards and forwards because sometimes it happens that the giver finds himself on the receiving end, G-d forbid. This is what the Holy Torah is hinting to us with the 'kadma v'azlah': Get up and go take care of people - give bread to the poor before they ask, so that when the wheel brings you down from the top, you should also be given before you ask.

The Erev Rav Only Saw Legs

"He took it from their hands and bound it up in a cloth, and fashioned it into a molten calf" (Shemot 32:4)

Why did he fashion it specially in the form of a calf?

The Shach, in his anthology on the Torah, explains:

The Chizkuni says that when Am Yisrael saw the Shechina by the sea and said, "This is my G-d", the Erev Rav (mixed multitude of various nationalities who converted to Judaism and accompanied the Jews out of Egypt) only saw the legs of the angels whose feet are formed in the shape of a calf's foot. This is what it says in Tehillim, "They saw Your ways, O G-d… and Your footsteps were not known", they thought that these were Hashem's footsteps. This is why they formed their god in the shape of a calf.

Remain Quiet or Minimize Speech on Shabbat

"On the seventh day you shall desist; you shall desist from plowing and harvesting" (Shemot 34:21)

The sefer 'Noam Megadim' uses this verse as a hint to the ruling which is brought in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 107:1) "'Discussing the forbidden' - your speech on Shabbat should not be like your speech during the weekdays. Therefore, one is forbidden to say, 'I will do such and such tomorrow'. One is also forbidden to talk excessively about idle matters." So we see that there are things that one is forbidden to say on Shabbat and things that one should talk about minimally.

This is what the verse is implying: "On the seventh day you shall desist". How should you desist? "From plowing" (the Hebrew word 'חריש', plowing, can also mean to be silent), meaning that there are things that you should keep quiet about and not talk about at all. "And harvesting" (the Hebrew word 'בקציר', harvesting, can also mean to shorten), meaning that there are kinds of speech that you should keep short…

Moshe Did Not Retreat

"And now I shall ascend to Hashem – perhaps I can win atonement in the face of your sin" (Shemot 32:30)

What was Moshe Rabbeinu's reaction after the sin of the Golden Calf? He begged for mercy for Am Yisrael. This, Rabbi Shabtai Atton zt"l explains, contains a message for anyone who heads a yeshiva. When things proceed as usual, he sees his talmidim growing spiritually, toiling in Torah with yirat shamayim and behaving with piety and holiness. But it might come about that he notices a sudden decline in some of his talmidim. How should he react? He should learn from Moshe Rabbeinu and not become despondent and slacken off from continuing to spread Torah and yirat shamayim.

There was no more elevated generation than that of the midbar. They stood at Har Sinai and heard the Torah from the Mighty One. Yet when Moshe was faced with their serious transgression and significant decline, he nevertheless did not retreat but instead begged for mercy on their behalf and continued guiding them in their avodat Hashem. He realized that he is occupied with Hashem's people who are the sheep of His pasture, and his work is sacred service.

A Novel Look at the Parsha

Who is Capable of Forgiving?

"And You shall forgive our iniquity and error, and make us Your heritage" (Shemot 34:9)

Harav Baruch Rosenblum shlita writes ('Doresh Tov' on Yom Kippur) that after giving over a shiur several years ago, a respectable person approached him and asked to speak to him privately for a few minutes. They found a quiet corner behind the building, and there he told over his life's story:

"I made Aliyah as a young boy, together with my parents and siblings. We experienced difficult acclimation challenges and there was almost no food in the house. There were days that I went to bed without supper and the next morning too, there wasn’t always something on which to 'break my fast'. Nevertheless, I never complained.

"Once I started attending Yeshiva, things started looking good. At every meal I received a piece of bread! I couldn't believe it, here I am in Eretz Yisrael, I can learn Torah and have bread to eat!

One day on my way home, I came upon a notice hanging in the Beit Knesset, advertising a company that was looking for workers for bein hazmanim. Since I was penniless, I decided that I would devote my bein hazmanim to working in this religious factory. I hoped that the meager wages would allow me to buy myself some decent clothing, leaving me with some change that I would give my father, to help him with the expenses of the upcoming chag.

I went to the factory to apply for the job. I was told what the job involved and that the shift was from eight in the morning until five in the afternoon. I agreed to the conditions and began to work. The first week passed, and so did the second and the third.

In the middle of the third week, the manager called all the workers to a meeting in the dining room. We sat around the table and it was clear that the manager was very angry. He locked the door and said: "I had a small tape-recorder in my office that I used for listening to music." In those days, a small tape-recorder was an unheard-of luxury.

"This tape-recorder" and here the manager raised his voice, "I had ordered from overseas. Today I left the factory for a short time, and when I came back, I saw that the tape-recorder had disappeared.

I demand that the one who took it return it immediately! If you do so, you will be saved humiliation for I won't involve the police."

An awkward silence reigned. No one got up to confess.

The manager waited several moments and then said: "Okay, I see that no one is admitting guilt. I am now going to the cloakroom to check all your bags. Woe to the one in whose possessions I find the tape-recorder!"

The manager went to check but didn’t find anything. He returned to the room and we anxiously waited to see what his next step would be. "No problem, he declared, I am skilled in physiognomy (reading facial characteristics). I will survey you one by one and immediately reveal who is the thief."

He started examining the first worker from head to toe, and after that the next one. So each worker passed through his scrutiny until my turn arrived. He looked straight into my eyes and suddenly said: "You are the thief! Return the tape-recorder!"

At that moment my blood froze.

Thirty pairs of eyes bore into me as if they were daggers. They watched my every move, waiting to see how I would react. I offered up a silent prayer: "Master of the world, You know that there were nights that I did not have what to eat, but even then I never took something that didn’t belong to me and I never touched bread that wasn’t mine!" Aloud, I said: "That I should touch a tape-recorder that doesn’t belong to me? I don’t even know what a tape-recorder looks like!"

To no avail. The manager was convinced: "You are the thief. It is clear to me. Tomorrow you will receive your due wages, and after I deduct the price of the tape-recorder, you will be dismissed."

From that day on, every night before I went to sleep I would say, "I hereby forgive anyone who angered or antagonized me or who sinned against me, besides this person."

"Fifty years passed," the man concluded his story, "and I never told the story to anyone."

"What happened now?" I asked.

"This week I was walking down the street and suddenly I saw a notice informing people that this manager had passed away. I stood by the notice and spoke to myself: Has the time not come to forgive? If Hashem can forgive and pardon, why can you not? Why are you so cruel?

I continued and said: Master of the world, I beg of you that this man should not be punished on my account. I forgive and pardon him for all that he did to me… But while I was talking, I once again heard his voice accusing me: You are the thief!! And I just couldn't forgive him.

The next morning, I approached the Rav of the Beit Knesset where I pray, told him the entire story and asked him what I should do. The Rav answered: "There is a kollel avreichim here in the Beit Knesset. Divide out the Six Orders of the Mishna between all the avreichim, which they should learn as a merit for his neshama. Pay each of them two hundred shekels for doing this. When you pay two thousand shekels from your pocket as a merit for his neshama, this will certainly help you to forgive him."

I did just as he said. I waited until the avreichim arrived and gave each one two hundred shekels, asking them to complete the Mishnayot."

I shook his hand and said, "How fortunate are you!"

He clasped my hand forcefully and said: "I want to tell you something. I gave two thousand shekels as a merit for his neshama, but I don’t forgive him! And he burst into tears.

This incident illustrates how repentance and forgiveness are no simple feats.

The shiur that I had given focused on the words of Rabbeinu Yonah: "One of the benefits with which Hashem Yitbarach benefitted His creatures, is that He prepared for them a way to emerge from the snare of their deeds and flee from the trap of their sins." Rabbeinu Yonah tells us that repentance is one of the acts of kindness that Hashem, in His great mercy, bestowed on His creatures. Rabbi Nissim Gaon writes: "We know of the capacity of Your mercy from Your passing over the sins of those who fear You."

We cannot fathom this wonderful kindness that is called repentance! We cannot fathom how much Heavenly mercy is involved in the matter of repentance!

Only a father can forgive his children and accept their repentance! Only a father can do this for a child! This understanding should lead us to appreciate what a wonderful gift we were given!


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