The Parsha begins with Hashem’s command to Moshe Rabbeinu to count B’nei Yisroel.QUESTION 1; If you’re thinking, “weren’t they already counted?’
My answer to you is yes. But, when you love what you have, you tend to count it. We see many kids counting their baseball cards, pogs and money. Hashem loves us dearly, even when we show our disloyalty to Him.QUESTION 2; We know, that in our religion, we don’t count people. When we count, we use a different way of counting. For example; we use the Possuk of; “Hoshi’ah et ameicha, u’vareich etc.” to count 10 people. What was the system prescribed by Hashem?
Answer; each donated a half of a shekel..QUESTION 3; What was the money used for?
Answer; The expenses of the Korbanot.QUESTION 4; Why wasn’t the monies collected from the rich only?
Answer; To achieve unity amongst B’nei Yisroel.QUESTION 5; Could a wealthy person give more, or could a poor person give less?
Answer; No! Everyone was treated as equals. This brings unity. The rich person didn’t feel any different than the poor person. This brought them together.QUESTION 6; Why a half? Wouldn’t it be easier just for everyone to give a whole ?
Answer; NO!! By giving a half, each one felt as if he needed the next guy to complete the Shekel. THIS IS UNITY- Achdus!! We must feel incomplete without another Jew.STORY:
Reb Aryeh Leib Sara’s, (1730-1791. student of the Ba'al Shem Tov) traveled throughout the countryside helping Jews in need. He was stuck in a village Erev Yom Kippur, being the 9th man for the Minyan. Reb Leib asked them again and again; “Are you sure there aren’t any other Jews in the village? Is there anyone who converted out of Judaism?” One of the men recalled that the evil “poritz” converted when offered the daughter of the previous poritz. Despite the attempt of the 8 people to dissuade him, Reb Leib Sara’s went to the evil poritz with confidence. The poritz saw the Rebbe in his white- Yom Kippur attire. He was speechless from the sight of the great Tzaddik. The rebbe spoke; “My mother Sarah, was a saintly woman. The son of a poritz saw her and wanted to marry her. Despite his offer of riches and wealth, she refused and married my father, a G-d fearing Jew who was poor. She passed her test! You did not!" The poritz stood frozen as the rebbe spoke; “Nevertheless, It’s not too late to do T'shuvah. The gates of heaven are open. We are 9 men and you are our 10th, come and complete our Minyan." The poritz rushed behind the rebbe to the Shul, where the 8 other men were gasping with disbelief. He was given a Tallis and Machzor and wrapped himself up, unable to be seen. The 2 Sifrei Torah were taken out, one given to the poritz to hold. Reb Leib asked permission of Hashem and the congregation to Daven with the evil convert. The poritz heard this and groaned so loud, the people thought he would collapse. He remained in place, crying desperate tears of regret. He moaned from the depth of his heart, bringing frightful shivers to all those present.INTERESTING TO NOTE;
The next day too, he stayed in his place, crying to Hashem. When they got to the “Al Cheit,” he cried so loud and trembled so much that his Tallis was soaking wet. This awesome sight continued through “Neila,” the holiest time of the day. The “poritz” was no longer a poritz but a real Jew. He approached the Aron Kodesh and embraced the Torah and with a scream that pierced the heavens, and proclaimed, "SHEMA YISROEL HASHEM ELOKEINU, HASHEM ECHOD!!!!!” With all his strength he cried out, “HASHEM HU HAELOKIM!!!!” Hashem- He is our G-d. Seven times he repeated this line, louder and louder, ‘till he reached the final time and with superhuman strength he screamed; HASHEM HU HAELOKIM!!!! and died.
Reb Leib said, “Fortunate is the one who died with the name of Hashem on his lips.” He said Kaddish for the Tzaddik every Yom Kippur. They needed the evil poritz to complete the Minyan. This led to him doing T'shuvah and leaving this world a Tzaddik. WE SHOULD ALWAYS SEE OURSELVES AS INCOMPLETE. WE ARE DEPENDENT ON OTHER JEWS TO COMPLETE THE UNIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Machtzit HaShekel was also an atonement (forgiveness) for the “Cheit HaEigel" (sin of the golden calf). Why then, does this chapter come before the story of the Cheit HaEigel? Answer; Hashem always has the rectification (remedy) of the Cheit before it’s actually committed. Hashem creates the solution to the problem before the problem. Therefore, the Kaparah (atonement) for the Cheit HaEigel was created before the actual Cheit. For this reason it comes first.INTERESTING TO NOTE;
The way we’re counted is through our act of giving. What makes us significant is the fact that we are people of action. WE GIVE !- Furthermore, the word used for giving-in this Possuk is; V’not’nu. This word is spelled the same way if you read it forwards or backwards. The significance is; one who gives-will get in rewarded return. Tzeddaka goes both ways. You give- but you also get in return.LESSON;
When Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu of the donation that each member of B’nei Yisroel will give to atone for the “Cheit HaEigel," he thinks it will be a large some of money. Hashem takes out a half of a Shekel, made from fire, from under His throne, to show Moshe Rabbeinu. Hashem says, “It’s not as you think, that it’s a lot of money, It’s a mere half of a Shekel."
Often we give up on ourselves trying to serve Hashem thinking we have to do big, holy and courageous acts to serve Him. If only we would realize how precious are those “small” but sincere deeds. When we see we can’t do everything, we settle with nothing!!! Hashem took the small half of a shekel and taught Moshe Rabbeinu and us, that what seems small to you in you’re world, is just beneath my heavenly throne.POINT TO PONDER;
Why was the half Shekel made of fire? Answer; Fire has the potential to warm up people and prepare food for people to eat. On the other hand, it has the potential to destroy lives and land. Fire can be extremely constructive or extremely destructive. The same is true with money. It has the potential to help people live to serve Hashem, or if used improperly, destroy.LESSON;
Let’s use our money for good. We never lose by giving Tzeddaka!
Hashem commands Moshe Rabbeinu on the building of the "Kiyor" and its’ "Kaan." The Kiyor was situated on its’ base, known as the "Kaan." It was used by the Kohanim to wash their hands and feet.Q; Why was it necessary to wash?
A; Washing sanctified the body to serve Hashem.Q; Why the hands and feet?
A; The hands are the highest part of the body, when they’re lifted up. The feet are the lowest part of the body. This shows us that the whole body is sanctified, from top to bottom.Q; How did they wash themselves?
A; They would wash their right foot with their right hand and their left foot with their left hand. This brought the uppermost part of the body to sanctify the lowest part of the body, thereby surrounding the body with sanctification.Q; Why don’t we wash ourselves these days before serving Hashem?
A; We Do! Before we Daven, we wash our hands.Q: What was the Kiyor made of?
A; Copper that the women brought out from Mitzrayim.Q; HUH??
A; Good question! Our righteous Jewish women, with their great foresight, took their copper mirrors from Mitzrayim to use for the eventual building of the Mishkan.FASCINATING SIDE POINT;
Moshe asked Hashem; “How can I use these mirrors which the women used to attract their husbands in Mitzrayim?" Hashem answered Moshe Rabbeinu saying; “These mirrors the women used to attract their husbands, are what kept B’nei Yisroel a growing nation. These mirrors are dear to me!"
The Ketoret- incense was made of 10 good smelling spices and one bad smelling spice.Q; Why would Hashem want a bad smelling spice included with the good smelling spices for his Ketoret?
A; This teaches us that all Jews are included, even the ones that don’t act like good Jews.LESSON;
Although we are suppose to have good role models as friends, we must accept all Jews and love and help them as much as possible. Non-religious Jews don’t have the knowledge we have. There is a reason they aren’t religious. We have to teach them the Torah way of life and not reject them for their mistakes.STORY;
The “Stoliner Rebbe” in Williamsburg was known for his hospitality. His Shabbos table was visited by Jews from all walks of life. His "gabbai" (personal secretary) Yankel, was in charge of keeping things running smoothly. At the beginning of the Shabbos Seudah, there was a loud screech of a car and all heads turned to the window. A heavyset man emerged from the car and put the yarmulke from his pocket on his head. Yankel was infuriated with the guest who shows up for a good meal, but has the "chutzpah" to drive to the rebbe’s house. Yankel made up his mind to stop this behavior. The man came into the house and Yankel ran over to get rid of him. As he was trying to convince him to leave, Yankel felt a hand on his shoulder. The rebbe tells Yankel; ‘’Get out of here and don’t come back!” Yankel was devastated. His leader and role model just threw him out of the house. He tried asking the rebbe forgiveness and explain his actions, but the rebbe wouldn’t listen. The Rebbe took the guest to a seat and personally served him the rebbetzin’s cholent. Day after day, Yankel tried appeasing the rebbe, but to no avail. Yankel was at a loss as to what to do. He came crying to the rebbe, begging for forgiveness. The Rebbe explained, ‘’A Jew who needs a meal, even if he shows an indifference towards religion. even if he gains no more from the Shabbos meal than eating Kosher once in his life, that’s enough. It’s not our place to judge whether or not it’s worth helping another Jew." We see the uncompromising love of the Stoliner Rebbe. When I davened in the Stoliner Bais Medrash in Yerushalayim, I was invited by 3 people separately, within a couple of minutes, to join their families for dinner. This is Ahavat Yisroel!!STORY:
Reb Chaim Ozer was the Manhig (leader) of the generation before the destruction of European Jewry. He was the father for all Jews in that part of Europe. Besides being a genius (he was able to write 2 different things with his 2 hands simultaneously, while learning a different subject!) he had an unusual love for his fellow Jews. The following story shows how sensitive and caring he was to a Jew who was going to lead an unobservant life. A young couple came to Reb Chaim Ozer to ask him to be “Mesader Keddushin” at their wedding. He inquired from the young couple about their families. After discovering the girl was an orphan, Reb Chaim Ozer gave them a $100 bill (That was a tremendous amount of money). After the couple left the room, Reb Chaim Ozer called back the young bride to be. He looked out the window to avoid possibly embarrassing her and said, “Dear child, did you learn the laws pertaining to marriage? Don’t feel bad, for in regular cases, these would have been taught to you by your mother (her mother wasn't living), I will teach you everything you need to know.” The ‘Gadol HaDor' taught her all the Halachot as he gazed out that window, so not to embarrass her. He made her feel important, even though she was negligent of the basic laws.STORY:
The saintly “Chofetz Chaim” was at an inn, when a rough, mean looking Russian soldier barged in. He made his way to the innkeeper and demanded a glass of vodka. Those present mumbled their criticisms of the man’s crude behavior. The Chofetz Chaim noticed that behind this obnoxious character, is a lost Jewish soul. He approached the brute saying, ‘’It’s amazing that after all these years you remained a Jew.” The Tzaddik's words struck the innermost point of his soul. The soldier cried to the Chofetz Chaim, “Rabbi, I was taken from my parents when I was 10 years old. They tried everything to get me not to be Jewish, but I didn’t convert!”
Look at the affect the Chofetz Chaim had on this soldier by making him feel accepted. The whole body of the Jewish people is enhanced by having all Jews included.
We learned of the construction of the Mishkan and the clothes for the Kohanim. We learned of the Shemen HaMishcha and the Ketoret. Hashem tells Moshe that, even though all this creating will take place, the Shabbos interrupts it. Shabbos is the eternal sign between B’nei Yisroel and Hashem. The actions done to create the Mishkan and all that was used, are the actions we’re not allowed to do on Shabbos. (I.E.-The spices were ground up for the Ketoret. We're prohibited to ground up peppercorns to make pepper).
We are familiar with the story of the Eigel HaZahav, but may not realize who the instigators were. They were Egyptians who tagged along with us when we left Mitzrayim and caused us many problems. It was them who the Satan (Yaitzer Harsh) tricked into thinking something happened to Moshe . Here’s what happened... Because of a miscalculation, B’nei Yisroel thought Moshe was delayed. The Satan saw this as a great opportunity to mess them up. There we were, scared and confused. We just witnessed the greatest revelation of Hashem and feel that we’ll live forever. "What could go wrong? Moshe, our faithful leader is on Har Sinai, learning Torah from the Mouth of Hashem!! But where is he?? He should be coming down now. What’s this I see? It seems like an image of Moshe, dead!! This must be a sign from Hashem that our leader is gone. We need someone or something in this world to go between us and Hashem. We need another Moshe!"FOR ADULTS ONLY;
The complaints were brought to Chur, Aharon and the Zikkeinim. Chur spoke out against them, criticizing their demand; “How could you think of such a thing. After all Hashem has done with you?" They killed Chur! Now Aharon is in a bind.
Aharon tells them to bring their gold, thinking they’d never agree. The righteous women wouldn’t hear of such a thing, so the men took away their wives' gold to contribute to the pot. After the gold rush, Aharon realized he struck gold. He was fearful for he knew it was a golden opportunity for an idol to be made. He could have sat idly, but decided to act as if he was on their side. HOLY COW! Aharon throws the gold in fire- and lo and behold, an Eigel (calf-cow-ox) springs up. The Satan makes the Eigel move around, so now they really think it’s a god. Aharon decides to build the altar they wanted, doing it as slowly as possible. He declares the next day a festival to Hashem. Certainly Moshe Rabbeinu will be down by then. The next day, the Airev Rav woke up early to eat and drink and sacrifice to the Eigel. They even lured the Bechorim (first born) to sacrifice to the Eigel. This is the point in history where the service of Hashem was taken from the Bechorim and given to the Kohanim.
On a deeper level, we will try and understand their Avairah. The creation of this Eigel was a symbol of the feeling of satisfaction with one’s spiritual level. The Eigel was a statement that, just as this calf will never grow- it’s a solid mass of material which has no hope for spiritual growth, we too, have no interest in growing or changing. We’ve made ourselves complacent with our level of observance. This is the Avodah Zoroh of the Eigel.LESSON:
Never be satisfied with your observance of Mitzvot. Always strive to know more, do more, or at least want to do more. A Jew always strives to be better than the next day.
Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu of the atrocity taking place and commands him to “go down.”LESSON;
A leader must know how to go down from their lofty level to deal with the nation on their level.Q; All of a sudden Moshe responds to the event? I thought Hashem already told him about it before he came down?
Hashem lets Moshe Rabbeinu know that He’s “angry.” Moshe pleads with Hashem in an attempt to subdue His “anger.” Hashem accepts the T'fillah of Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe goes down the mountain with the "Luchot." Upon seeing the rejoicing around the Eigel, Moshe smashes the Luchot on the ground.
Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t go by hear-say and gossip. Don’t loose your cool.
SEE FOR YOURSELF AND THEN DRAW CONCLUSIONS.
Moshe prepares to punish the sinners and declares; “Whoever is for Hashem - with me!” The tribe of Levi came.STORY:
When Rav Shimon Schwalb needed advice as to what road to take for himself in life, He traveled to the Gadol HaDor; The saintly Chofetz Chaim. Before Rav Schwalb had a chance to explain his reason for the visit, The Chofetz Chaim said the following; “Thousands of years ago, when Moshe Rabbeinu declared- ‘Whoever is for Hashem- with me,’ Shevet Levi came forward. They were the ones who became the Kohanim. For this reason, I will serve in the Bais HaMikdash, whereas you won’t.” This was very untypical of the Chofetz Chaim to say such a thing. Was he trying to poke fun at the young Rav Schwalb?? Years later Rav Schwalb understood the prophetic words of the Tzaddik. Because of the heroism of Shevet Levi, thousands of years ago, the Chofetz Chaim could serve in the Bais HaMikdash. Every generation there is a calling of “whoever is for Hashem- to me!” If one rises to the occasion, he and his future generations will benefit greatly. Indeed there is a calling in this generation. Rav Shimon Schwalb headed the call and came to this country to fight the battle for Hashem. He continued strengthening American Jewry. He left this world a valiant soldier.
Moshe Rabbeinu goes up the mountain again to ask forgiveness from Hashem on behalf of B’nei Yisroel. He cries out to Hashem- "If you don’t forgive B’nei Yisroel, ERASE ME FROM YOUR BOOK!” WOW!STORY;
Isn’t that amazing. Moshe was willing to be erased from the Torah for B’nei Yisroel to be forgiven.
The Ba'al Shem Tov showed up for Shabbos at a village that he was accustomed to visit. This time, he turned down all invitations and asked the community to remain in Shul for Tehillim. He led the congregation all night long until Shabbos morning. The Ba'al Shem Tov led Shacharit and Mussaf and said more Tehillim. He let them go home to finally make Kiddush and eat. Needless to say, the village was in a state of confusion. After Havdolah, the Ba'al Shem called over one of the non-Jews of the town. He asked him, in front of the confused people, “What took place over the past 24 hours?” The man told the Tzaddik and his followers the following story; "The head of the city was told that the Jews were the ones for his loss of money. He was so angry at you guys, that he rounded up the city to slaughter you. We were waiting all night for his word, but he didn’t give it. It seemed like he was being held back. We waited all night, well into the next day. Suddenly, a man showed up, and spoke with him. I don’t know what took place during the talk, but immediately after, our gang was sent home.” The Ba'al Shem thanked the man and sent him on his way. He explained to them saying; “There was going to be a massacre in your village. I came here to get you all to do T'shuvah. This prevented the Jew hater from letting his men out. As to the man who showed up to talk to the head of the city, he was an old friend of our enemy, from childhood. He’s been dead for 40 years, but I brought him back to this world to convince his old friends that the Jews are very loyal people.” The people were amazed at the great miracle that took place by the Ba'al Shem. When the “Sadigerer Rebbe “ would repeat this amazing story, he would ask; “couldn’t the holy Ba'al Shem do the miracle without leaving his home? Why did he need to travel all the way there? The answer is that the Tzaddik thought; If my plan works, great. But if not, I WANT TO BE THERE WITH MY FELLOW JEWS!STORY:
This was the intention of Moshe Rabbeinu, if B’nei Yisroel are in trouble, I want to be with them. Erase me from You’re book. I will remain with them.
Rav Elchonon Wasserman was in America when WWII broke out. People begged him to stay in America upon hearing the news of the Holocaust. He could easily have stayed, but chose to be with the other Jews, especially his students, during that time. The Nazis shot him to death as he cried out Shemah Yisroel.STORY:
Another great Torah leader who lived during the years of the Holocaust in America, was Rav Aharon Kotler. He came to America before the Holocaust, but was extremely involved in influencing the American government to help save the Jews of Europe.
Throughout the many years of destruction of European Jewry, Rav Aharon never partook of meat meals (except on religious occasions). His rebbetzin refrained from buying a new dress during all the years. They felt so connected to their fellow Jews' suffering, they avoided unnecessary enjoyment until the horrible events of those years past.
The Cheit HaEigel is indeed confusing. We do learn, though, that whatever level we’re on, we could always fall. B’nei Yisroel were on the highest level, yet they failed. The lesson for us is that for sure, on our level, we can turn around our ways. Never give up!GOOD SHABBOS !
If you believe that you can damage, then believe too that you can repair!!
© 1998 by R' Matis Friedman, H.A.F.T.R.
R' Matis Friedman's email address is email@example.com
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