A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Ki Tisa 20 Adar I 5763 February 22, 2003 Vol.12 No.18
In This Issue:
Halacha of the Week
Rabbi Howard Jachter
This week’s issue of Kol Torah has been sponsored by Michael and Susan Richmond
It's Not What It Seems
by Rabbi Ezra Weiner
In describing the Luchot the Pasuk states “Vihaluchot Maase Elokeem Hayma, Vehamichtav Michtav Elokeem Hu, Charut Al Haluchot,” “And the Luchot were a work of Hashem and the writing was a writing of Hashem, engraved on the Luchot.” Rav Shlomo Shwadron in his sefer Lev Shalom asks the following question on this Pasuk. If the Torah has already described the entire Luchot as a “Maase Elokeem,” “A work of Hashem,” then it is self-evident that the Michtav, writing, which is part of the Luchot is also “Michtav Elokeem,” “Writing of Hashem.” Secondly, if the writing was engraved as the Pasuk says, “Charut,” then how could the engraving be “Al Haluchot,” “On the Luchot?” Writing that is engraved is fashioned into a surface not on a surface. If Hashem had written the Aseret Hadibrot, the Ten Commandments, in ink then would the word “Al,” “on,” be appropriate.
Rav Shwadron explains as follows. There is an advantage and disadvantage to engraving and there is an advantage and disadvantage to writing with ink. Engraving allows for the writing and the surface to become one entity. However, part of the surface is lost. Writing with ink, on the other hand, takes nothing away from the surface yet it remains above the surface as a separate entity. We are all familiar with the miracles exhibited in the Luchot. The letters Mem and Samech floated in the air and the Aseret Hadibrot could be read from either side of the Luchot. Rav Shwadron suggests based on the above Pasuk an additional miracle. The Luchot were the work of Hashem in both its engraved aspect and its written aspect. The words were in fact engraved and thus became one entity with the surface of the Luchot. On the other hand, the words were “Michtav,” written, as well in the sense that miraculously there was nothing missing from the original stone that existed prior to the engraving.
The Power of Tefilah
by Willie Roth
Tefila, prayer is a privilege given to us by Hashem as a way to ask Him for certain things. Throughout the Torah, Moshe davens to Hashem, and this week’s Parsha provides one of the most celebrated examples of this. Bnai Yisrael had just committed the Chet Haegel, and Hashem wanted to destroy them and create a nation from Moshe. Even though the decision of Hashem looked final, Moshe prayed to Hashem Which caused him to “change his mind,” thus saving Bnai Yisrael. One of the reasons that Moshe presented to Hashem why He should listen to him was that the idea of the Mitzrim might think that when they see Hashem taking Bnai Yisrael out of Mitzraim to kill them in the Midbar, they would think negatively of Hashem: This prayer is a classic example of Moshe saving Bnai Yisrael, and a case where Hashem listened to Moshe’s prayer.
In Parshat Vaetchanan, Moshe davens to Hashem to allow him to enter Bnai Yisrael even though it was already decided that because of his sin at May Meriva, Moshe would not go in. Despite this fact, Moshe davened one more time to go into Eretz Yisrael. However, Moshe did not give any reason. As Rashi says, he was asking for a “Matnat Chinam,” a free gift. According to Rashi in Devarim, Moshe went to Hashem and tried to change Hashem’s decision and allow him to go into Eretz Yisrael based on the fact that Moshe davened to Hashem by the Chet Haegel. However, in this case, Hashem did not answer in the affirmative but rather said no.
We refer to Hashem as the Shomea Tefila (listener of the Tefilot) but not as the Mekabel Tefila (receiver of the Tefilot). Accordingly, sometimes Hashem will answer yes and sometimes He will answer no. The way of Hashem in regard to Tefilot is inscrutable; we don’t know how His process works. In terms of the actual Tefilot, one could say that the difference of the structure in the two cases might have led to the different outcomes. In one case Moshe used reasons for his Tefila, which was answered, and in one case he didn’t, and his Tefila was not answered. However, that might not be relevant because when Moshe davened to Hashem for his sister, Miriam, (in Parshat Behaalotcha) after she had gotten Tzaraat, Moshe did not use any reasons as to why she should be cured, but in some way Hashem listened to Moshe’s prayers.
Even though our Tefilot are not always answered the way we would like them to be, they are listened to. Since we refer to Hashem as the Shomea Tefila and not as the Mikabel Tefila, we say that Hashem listens to our Tefilot just sometimes the answer is no. However, this should not discourage us to daven because sometimes our Tefilot we can be answered with a yes.
-Adapted from a Chumash Shiur given at TABC by Rabbi Zvi Engel in 2002
The Door is Always Open
by David Tessler
The Torah tells us that Moshe prayed three separate times during the episode of the golden calf and its aftermath. We see this in Parshiot Ki Tisa and Eikev. The Rav explains that Moshe asked Hashem for three things: to forgive the people and save them from total destruction, to reaccept the Jewish People, and to give the Luchot a second time (according to some, Moshe destroyed the Luchot willingly to save the people). By destroying the Luchot, Moshe severed the obligation of the people to follow the commandments, including the commandment forbidding the creation of an idol. Chazal compare this to a case of a woman whose was betrothed on a condition (Kidushin Al Tinai) and committed adultery. To save her from the death penalty, her husband breaks the condition, thus nullifying the marriage. Moshe was begging Hashem for a new “marriage” to the people, now that the Luchot were broken.
After Moshe successfully saves the people, receives the Luchot again, and has a new “wedding” with Hashem, he makes a strange final request. In Parshat Eikev, Moshe says he prayed for forty days when he went to receive the second set of Luchot. This last prayer was for Hashem to travel in the midst of Bnai Yisrael instead of sending an angel to lead the way. The Rav explained this in the following way. The Gemara (Rosh Hashana 17b) point out that the word Hashem appears twice among the thirteen attributes revealed to Moshe during his forty days on the mountain. The Gemara explains that one refers to Hashem before man sins, while the other refers to Hashem after man sins and repents. Hashem promises to return the sinner who repents to the status he enjoyed before his sin as if the sin never happened. The second name of Hashem teaches that Hashem never forsakes man in a state of sin and always is nearby, pushing man to repent.
Rav Chaim of Volozhin says that Hashem is referred to as both a father and a mother in Tanach. Why are both attributes necessary? After all, both parents love their child, and it is impossible to say whose love is greater. He answered that when a father comes home from work he takes his child and plays with him. As soon as the child soils his diaper, some fathers will hand the child to the mother and say, “Here, take him.” The mother will instinctively take the child and wash him, and once he is clean he will be handed back to the father. Rav Chaim said that if Hashem treated mankind only from the perspective of the father, He would discard us the moment we dirtied ourselves with sin. It is the motherly attribute of Hashem that pushes the Jew to repent. It is the motherly attribute that expresses itself through the G-d Who dwells with Bnai Yisrael even in the midst of their defilement, Who is willing to cleanse the Jews from their spiritual impurity.
Hashem said that an angel would lead Bnai Yisrael. Moshe responded that Hashem should lead them. What was so terrible about being led by an angel of Hashem? Moshe said that while Hashem forgave the people and returned them to their original status after this episode, what would happen the next time they sinned? What would happen after Moshe disappeared from the scene; who would stand behind the Jews and whisper in their ears “repent!” if Hashem was not right there? Moshe asked Hashem to travel in their midst, because not only did they need Hashem with them when the Luchot were intact, but they would need Hashem in their midst because they are a stiff-necked nation. Such a problem would happen again, and Bnai Yisrael would need Hashem to push them to repent. The Rav explained that the reason we say, “Ata Noten Yad Laposhim,” “You offer a hand to those that have sinned,” and not, “Ata Mikabel Shavim,” “You accept those who repent,” is because Hashem comes to a Jew while he is still in the depths of sin and offers him a way out of the abyss of sin even before the Jew looks for help. Hashem comforts him with the thought that He will be with him every step of the way on the road to repentance.
This is seen throughout Jewish history. The Jews worshiped idols, but they always repented. In the time of Achashveirosh, 12,000 Jews enjoyed the hospitality of the king’s party, but a short while later, they all repented when faced with the decree of death. (From a Shiur given by Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik February 26, 1957)
There is a Midrash that says that the world was created like the letter “Hey.” Just as the letter “Hey” is open on the bottom, it is very easy for Hashem’s creations to sin and fall through the big opening. The “Hey,” though, also has an opening towards the top. This connection between man and Hashem is a never-ending connection; we just have to remember that Hashem’s door is always open.
by Yair Manas
When a census of Bnai Yisrael is taken, the Pasuk says that each man shall give a ransom for himself to Hashem in order to avoid a plague (Shemot 30:12). Seforno says that when a group is counted, the counting is a sign that this group is undergoing a change and requires constant inspection. This change is the result of sin; therefore, this tally must be accompanied by atonement.
Rabbeinu Bachya has a different approach. He says that this tally draws out the individuality of the people, establishing them as separate units independently watched over by Hashem. Therefore, any plague will affect an individual more severely than it would affect him if he were just a part of the greater whole.
The Sefer Hachinuch views the census as Hashem’s method of creating equality within the nation. He says that in order to maintain Bnai Yisrael’s welfare and increase their merit, Hashem gave each person, rich or poor, an equal share in this Mitzva.
In singling out individuals from a group, a census creates division where there was once unity, so atonement is necessary. Why was a half-Shekel chosen for this purpose? According to Chassidic literature, the half-Shekel teaches us that no Jew can be complete without other Jews, that one Jew alone is only part of what he can become with others.
According to the Chatam Sofer in his Rosh Hashana sermons, this is what Hashem taught Moshe: Moshe knew that when a community is divided into separate groups, conflict arises. Hashem commanded Moshe to take this census to unite Bnai Yisrael.
Sounds of Distress
by Moshe Westrich
Bnai Yisrael were about to receive the Torah from Moshe, but instead they strayed from the will of Hashem. After forty days, they began to worry and they created a new leader, the golden calf. Hashem commanded Moshe to descend from Har Sinai to establish order and eliminate corruption. On his way down, Moshe heard the shouts of the people who were celebrating with their new god. Yehoshua also heard these sounds and said, “Kol Milchama Bamachane,”“the sound of battle is in the camp” (32:17). In the next Pasuk, Moshe tells Yehoshua, “It is not the sound of victory, nor the sound of defeat: I hear the sound of distress.” What is strange about this story is the contrast between the sounds made and the sounds heard. If the people were celebrating, why did Yehoshua hear sounds of war, and why did Moshe hear sounds of distress?
There is a story about Rav Chaim of Sanz, who would test children on Mishna or Gemara and reward them with money and candy. Once a group of secular Jews thought they would trick Rav Chaim. They taught Gemara to a gentile and dressed him as a Chasidic child. He related the Gemara perfectly to Rav Chaim. Rav Chaim told this gentile that there are better ways to make money. The secularists asked Rav Chaim how he knew that this boy was not Jewish, and he responded that this boy learned the Gemara as if it was a burden to him, while the other boys had true joy and spirituality.
Moshe and Yehoshua knew the difference between true joy and confusion. Although it might have looked like a celebration, Moshe knew that there were no true sounds of joy. Those with insight can determine that sounds of fake joy and celebration are truly sounds of battle and distress.
Halacha of the
After reciting Havdala on Motzai Shabbat, one should mention our belief in the coming of Eliyahu Hanavi and Mashiach (Rama Orach Chaim 295:1). Eliyahu cannot arrive on Friday or Shabbat to announce the arrival of Mashiach, so we mention Eliyahu after Havdala because he is again able to come. Many in Israel have the practice to recite Rav Kook’s poem la'ad chayah bilvaveinu at this time. This poem expresses our hope and desire to return to Eretz Yisrael.
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