Judaism: Pictures, Buses and a Lesson for Life
YU RIETS Israel KollelArutz Sheva brings you the weekly parsha sheet "Divrei Azriel" put out by Yeshiva University REITS kollel in Israel.
It was a sunny Thursday morning like any other. We thought we were taking a nice family trip to the American Consulate in order to citizenize our newest addition to the family- Adina Bryna. She woke her from her nap when we transferred her from her crib to stroller, but she soon fell back to sleep. Then, we woke her again to take her picture for her passport. Again, she soon fell back to sleep and we had a nice ride on the number 7 bus and a lovely walk through Arnona until we finally arrived at the godforsaken destination- the Consulate.
We walked up to the not-so-nice-looking security guard, at which point he asked for our print-out confirmation. "Umm..., what?" I responded, with curiosity. He went on to explain that there is something called a confirmation and I needed to print it out. I tried to explain to him that I never received one. However, he merely stated that I was not on his list of appointments for that day and directed me to go see the lady in the window. Basically, the same conversation took place between her and me, and after it the Daniels family left (my tail between my legs).
We had interrupted two great naps of our daughter, gotten up early, traveled a long way and were yelled at by Arabs at the Consulate, only to be sent home. When I got back, I attempted scheduling a new appointment, but the website did not let me do so. Why? Because I already had an appointment scheduled. For when? The next Thursday! Can you believe it? I got my dates mixed up. (I guess that's what happens when they don't email you a confirmation?)
Although that all seems rather anecdotal, there is a point I'm driving at. The point is humility. The realization that I am not in control, Hashem is. The feeling of absolute powerlessness is one of the scariest feelings for me, personally, and this trip was the perfect catalyst to bring that feeling out and help me deal with it.
Now, why am I telling you about my incompetence at keeping appointments and my other personal flaws? Here is the answer. In a few weeks, we will be reading parshas Shkalim but this week we are reading about the mitzva of machatzis hashekel, the half shekel donated to the Tabernacle. Many sources say that a very large part of this mitzvah is the process of coming to a place of humility. Whether it be coming to the realization that we are not whole in this world (even with a spouse, apparently) or that everyone has their part to play and who is to say that one person is better anyone else? The whole idea here is to come to a place of humility. Conversely, Rav Moses says that the point is to realize the greatness of people and to raise self-esteem, but that's not my point right now.
So, having learned the lessons of my travels, and with a perspective on the mitzvah of giving a measly half shekel, I bless you all that you truly come to a place of realizing and experiencing the greatness adlus of Hashem Yisbarach.
Soon after they received the Torah, Bnei Yisrael committed the sin of the Golden Calf. This was a serious transgression; to the extent that Hashem wanted to destroy the entire people of Israel (bar Moses). Many commentaries go on to explain what the exact sin was, and why it was so severe. Rashi seems to indicate that this was outright idol worship.
The Kuzari explains that they were just seeking a tangible object of worship, נעבד מוחש, yet still serving Hashem through him.
According to the Kuzari, the Jews were not guilty of idol worship, however, they did violate the command of not making a graven image. "לא תעשה לך פסל וכל תמונה"
The Ramban is of the opinion that Jews, B'nei Yisrael, were not seeking any form of a god to worship, rather they wanted a new sort of intermediary to replace Moses.
A very unique approach is that of the Sforno, who says that regardless of the actual sin committed, Hashem's reasoning for wiping out the people of Israel was entirely different. He uses the following verses:("ויאמר ה' אל משה ראיתי את העם הזה והנה עם קשה עורף הוא ועתה הניחה לי ויחר אפי בהם ואכלם ואעשה אותך לגוי גדול" (לב,ט-י).
That is, only after Hashem realized that the people of Israel were stiff necked, did he decide to destroy them. The Sforno explains Hashem's reasoning to be that one who is stubborn and stiff necked, regardless to the severity of the actual sin he committed, there is no hope for him, since he will not have remorse and repent from the injustice of his ways. It is interesting to note, that this Sforno does not appear in the context of the occurrence of the sin, but rather in Deuteronomy , where Moses asks the people of Israel to remember and reflect on the their sin. Moses's emphasis here is on the stubborness, קשיות עורף, of the people, and indeed the Sin of the Golden Calf is only brought in here for the purpose of illustrating this bad character trait in the Jewish people.
Moses tells the people of Israel the following: "You shall know that not for your righteousness Hashem is bringing you to this good land to inherit, for you are a stiff-necked nation.” According to the Sforno, Moses establishes the fact that the people of Israel cannot possibly be righteous, due to their bad character trait of stubborness, since this trait prevents one from repenting. ( This is the meaning of a "stiff neck" which prevents a man from turning away from his erroneous ways, so instead he remains behaving according to his own will, and his own desires.) This is the connection to the next verse which tells us: "Remember how you angered Hashem..."
Here we see the Jewish people's קשיות עורף, and its consequences. As the Sforno writes, the people of Israel sinned time after time, despite seeing the way of Hashem, His punishment and His greatness. Such peculiar and wrong behavior can only be explained through stubborness, קשיות עורף. Hashem and Moses rebuke them for this trait over and over.