Friday, February 14, 2014

Shem m'Shmuel on Ki Tisa

Having done a few other Shem m’Shmuel’s this week, might as well finish it off with some more (apologies to those who want lomdus):

1) Earlier in the week
we spoke about the Ramban’s question of why Moshe Rabeinu did not object in Parshas Mishpatim when Hashem said that he would send an angel to guide Bnei Yisrael, but now, after the cheit ha’eigel, when he is in a far worse bargaining position, Moshe insists that Hashem himself guide them. Another approach: We know from the Haggadah shel Pesach that the redemption from Egypt was also not done via a malach or any other intermediary, but by Hashem himself. When there is such a strong force of tumah, like in Egypt, even an angel is in danger of being sucked in; Hashem himself must intervene. Here too, when Klal Yisrael first accepted the luchos, they were on a tremendously high level. Being led by an angel in those circumstances was acceptable. But now, after the cheit ha’eigel, davka because Klal Yisrael had fallen to such depths, Moshe had to call on Hashem himself to pull them out.

Even if G-d forbid a person has fallen to a place that even angels would be sullied were they to tread there, there is still hope. G-d himself is willing to go down and pull a person out of the filthy quicksand when it needs to be done. 

2) The word “ach” is usually darshened as a miyut, a limitation. Rashi comments that the word “ach” in “Ach es shabsosai tishmoru,” teaches us that building the Mishkan is limited to weekdays and cannot be done on Shabbos. Ramban asks: the word “ach” in the pasuk refers to Shabbos; therefore, the derasha should tell us some limitation of Shabbos. According to Rashi, the pasuk is telling us a limitation in the mitzvah of building Mishkan, not Shabbos?

Shabbos elevates a person, but where Shabbos takes you depends on what you put into it. Around where I live there is one street where on nice days there is a seder kav’ua for a Shabbos pickup basketball game. Some people have a seder kavu’a in the beis medrash, or at a tisch. Imagine what Shabbos would be like if we could combine the holiness of Shabbos with the holiness of doing mitzvah of building Mishkan – that would be one special Shabbos! But the Torah tells us, “Ach es Shabsosai tishmoru,” we have to celebrate Shabbos on its own terms without the mitzvah of Mishkan, even if it means Shabbos itself is lessened as a result. [Why this should be so is something to think about...]

 3) Why was the kiyor placed betweeh the mizbeyach and the Ohel and not closer to the entrance to the Mishkan, so that kohanim could wash themselves as soon as they walked in the door? The Targum Yonasan in Parshas Pikudei tells us that the kiyor represents teshuvah -- the kohanim cleansing themselves for avodah represents washing off the shmutz of aveirah.  It is very hard to do teshuvah alone in a vacuum; the inspiration and energy of others is needed to move forward. Just as the kohen must pass the mizbeyach to get to the kiyor, a Jew needs to see the fire and sacrifice of others to help him get back on track.

4) Unlike the first luchos that came directly from G-d, the second luchos were made by Moshe. However, let's get rid of the misimpression that there was no miracle involved. Rashi writes on “Psol lecha…” that Hashem showed Moshe that there was a sapphire mine in his tent that had the stones he needed. Obviously, the mine being located right there was a miracle.  Once G-d was making a miracle anyway, why not just deliver the luchos the same way as the first time around?

We've been hitting this theme all week -- one more time won't hurt. The Torah here is telling us that the miracle of the luchos now has an address; it comes into the world only through the tent of Moshe.  For there to be luchos, there has to also be chachmei hamesorah to help deliver them.


5) “V’kasavta al haluchos es hadevarim asher ha’yahu al haluchos ha’rishonim…” It doesn’t say v’ksavata… KA’devarim,” words like you wrote the first time, but rather “HA'devarim,” the words, i.e. the exact same ones as before.  Chazal tell us that when Moshe broke the first luchos the letters jumped off and floated away.  Those exact same letters now came down and were engraved on the second tablets.

I don't know if this is what the Shem m'Shmuel wants us to take away from this vort, but this is what I take away: Klal Yisrael has had more than its fair share of periods of "sheviras haluchos."  David HaLivni has a book called, "Breaking the Tablets: Jewish Theology After the Shoah."  Baruch Hashem, we survive, we rebuild.  But there are those who always argue that "mai d'hava hava" and we need a new "torah" for new luchos.  There are those who argue that we cannot remake what once was even if we wanted to - if a Rembrant or Vermeer gets damaged, it can be restored so it looks like the original, but it will never be Vermeer's paint or Rembrant's brushstrokes.  When it comes Torah that's not how it works.  The tablets may be different, but we can and must inscribe "HA'devarim,"  the exact same ideas, ideals, and traditions as before onto them.  We can bring the past back to life.

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