Ki Tisa – A Perfect Fall

February 21, 2018
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“Look what your kids are doing! Go see what your kids are making so much commotion about.” Parents, have you noticed that when your children fail to perform at acceptable levels they cease to be your little angels and become your spouse’s out of control problem? Parashat Ki Tisa contains a very interesting dialogue between Moses and God, where the Holy One appears to have developed the kind of selective memory problems that we often do toward our own children. It shouldn’t shock us to hear Hashem say, “My children have gone astray,” or even something as extreme as “they have prostituted themselves before idols.” Or even “they are a stiff-necked” people, as he does happen to say in this parasha. But here, following building of Golden Calf, we see the kind of disclaimer reminiscent of “Mission Impossible” – “Should anything happen, we will disavow any knowledge of your actions.”

 

One would expect Moses to become the Children of Israel’s disheartened accuser, but like the audacious super-nanny, Moses pleads the case before God concerning His children. You can almost hear Moses say, “ None of the honors and none of the lands were great enough for your darlings so you left them slaves in the land of idolaters for over 400 years, and did you think they would not become idolaters?”

According to one Midrash Moses pleaded, “Lord I ask only what Abraham asked in the days of Sodom.” The Lord said, “So where are these ten righteous people.” Moses answered, “Caleb, Joshua, Aaron, Phineas, Ithamar, Eleazar and myself.” To this Hashem responded “But those are only seven.” Moses in turn querried, “Is there no resurrection from the dead? Then add to these Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to whom you swore that you would make a great nation.”

Moses knew that only the light of Hashem could make Israel the people they were destined to be. So why would he smash the tablets written with the finger of Hashem when he saw the people dancing around the golden idol? Certainly he was not taken by surprise since both God and Joshua had prepared him for the debauchery. According to one teaching from Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heshil who is fondly known as Ohev Yisrael (Lover of Israel), Moses wanted to demonstrate to the people that even if a person falls spiritually, he or she could still receive the light of the Creator!

A similar insight can be found in the following story of the Baal Shem Tov. When he arrived at a small town weary and dusty from his long travels the villagers clamored to have the great man stay with them. When he had chosen a home to stay in the wealthiest and most prominent member of the community complained, “How can you stay at this person’s house, we all know that this man has done awful things. Anyone in town can vouch for my virtues and I can provide much more comfortable lodging.” The Baal Shem Tov replied, “We know that when a person falls no matter how low his state the Creator is always with him. But if a person is full of pride, the creator cannot be with him. You are correct that this man is responsible for many misdeeds, but the Creator is still with him. You on the other hand are so aware of your goodness that the Creator is not with you, and if the Creator cannot stay with you neither can I.”

The Greatest Rebbe of all, Yeshua, would often eat with tax collectors and sinners much to the chagrin of some self-righteous religious teachers. In response Mashiach Yeshua would tell parable after parable illustrating the very same point, that God most desires a humble and contrite heart. Or as Rabbi Yakov states in Pierke Avot, “Better one hour of repentance in Olam Hazeh (This World) than the entire life of the Olam Habah (Age to Come), and better one hour of spiritual bliss in the Olam Habah (World to Come) then the entire life of Olam Hazeh (This World).” In other words, when a sinner repents it is as though they are living in the light of The Age to Come.

So the story of the Golden Calf is really the story of each of us. It is no accident that Aaron fashions the idol and Israel falls to it at the very moment God gives Israel the tablets of the covenant. In this respect it is the perfect fall. One of the major lessons that we can take away is the realization that there will be times that we fall, that we find ourselves in very dark places. What precipitates our fall is of penultimate importance. What is ultimately most important that we realize we need this fall, we need the dark moment in which we find ourselves. It is only when we realize it is dark that we can see the light!

The lesson to Israel, and the lesson for us, is to separate the dark place where we have arrived from the action that has brought us to it. I believe at the moment of Gemmar HaTikkun (the final repair all things) we are going to look back and see how perfect each of our mistakes was. Israel fell for us and in turn we fall for the sake of others.

What is most intuitive is to read Ki Tisa and judge the actors quite harshly. Yet if we do so our thinking is undone by the surprising ending to the portion. The presence of Hashem passes before Moses and Moses radiates from the light he receives; so much so that he must cover his own face with a veil for the Children of Israel to look upon him. Oddly enough when we focus on the ending there is nothing negative to consider, there is no darkness, and there is no sin. There is only light, the Light of the Olam Habah, the Light of the Gemmar HaTikkun, and the Light of unending true love. A perfect ending to a perfect fall.

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6 Responses to Ki Tisa – A Perfect Fall

  1. Helen A. Jones on February 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Rabbi Paul,

    What a great commentary for the Torah portion Ki Tisa. I had never thought of what had happened as planned by Hashim (God) and does represent all of use in some time or part of our lives, and until we repent and ask for forgiveness, we realize the true love of Hashim (God)in our lives. We always do look more at the negative and beat ourselves up about what happened instead of looking to what is intended by our loving father and great high priest Yeshua. What a way to end this portion by saying A perfect ending to a perfect fall. What a blessing!

    I thank Hashim for allowing me to have met and listen to you every Shabbat and also on line and being able to sit under such a great teacher. I may not always have much to say because I am taking everything in and digesting it but it has a great impact on me and how much is missed over the years and now better understanding has come.

    May Hashim’s continual blessings be upon you and your family.

    • Rabbi Paul on February 18, 2011 at 8:02 pm

      Thanks you so much for the kind words Helen. we can never be quite sure how God’s infinite knowledge works with our limited vision, but ultimately His plan will be completed and we have a choice to work with Him.

  2. Vladislav Nagirner on February 23, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    “According to one Midrash Moses pleaded…” – what midrash do you quote, dear rabbi Paul? Midrash Rabba? Toda raba.

    • Rabbi Paul on February 23, 2011 at 9:18 pm

      Yes this is from Shemot Rabbah as is the paragraph prior though i chose to make it more colloquial.

  3. Michael on March 2, 2015 at 6:41 am

    A good word brother, thank you. Following your comments on both the Baal Shem Tov and Yeshua, one is reminded of the tax collector, who in contrast to the one who thought himself righteous stated, “ADONAI, be merciful to me, the sinner.” I would venture to say that even though this tax collector could or would not even lift his eyes to heaven, the light, the radiance of HaShem probably enveloped him at that moment as the Psalmist acknowledged, “The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the peoples have seen His glory,” (97:6).

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