Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ki Tisa & Para 5777

The Torah Portion of "Ki Tisa - Para "  

Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat R' Yochanan Yitzchak Ben Nachum z"l 
L'ilui Neshamat R' Yaakov Ben Matisyahu HaLevi z"l
L'ilui Neshamat Esther Mushka Bat Yaakov HaLevi z"l
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Deena Bat Tzion Bat Zehava
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Chaya Basha Bat Esther
L'refuat Hanefesh V'lrefuat Haguf L'Etan Naphtali Ben Zehava
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Rivkah Goldah Bat Chaya Basha 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Shimon Ben Rivkah Goldah
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Simcha Pearl Bat Rivkah Goldah
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Moshe Shlomo Ben Rivkah Goldah
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Chaim Sh'muel Ben Rivkah Goldah 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Avital Bat Rut
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Eliezer Yitzchak Ben Bracha Devorah 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Michael Itzhak Nesshael Ben Avital 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Naomi Chana Bat Chaya Basha 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Refael Ben Masha Etel and
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'kol Am Yisrael V'l'geulah Hashleima Bekarov

"This is what they shall give..." (Shemot 30:13)

Rashi explained that the Holy One Blessed Be He showed Moshe a sort of coin of fire and told him: "Something like this is what they shall give".  The coin of fire hints that fire is able to be beneficial and also to cause damage.  Fire is able to burn, G-d forbid, but it is also able to cook and to heat and to give light, and the like.  Similarly, the coin, if it is used for Tzedaka (charity) and acts of kindness, then it has great benefit; but if we use money when it isn't for the purpose of fulfilling a Mitzvah, it can burn and cause damage, G-d forbid. (from Noam Elimelech)

The Coin of Fire

The coin of fire also hints that just as fire is able to give enjoyment to several people simultaneously and the fire does not get used up any faster because of that, so too someone who gives (tzedaka) does not diminish his property and won't be lacking anything.  The coin of fire also hints that even for a poor person who is only able to give a little bit and a small amount, if his giving is done with the enthusiasm of fire then even the small amount that he gives is thought of as a great donation, and it is also able to be an atonement for his soul like a great donation.

"...half of the shekel..." (Shemot 30:13)

And why not a whole one?  Because a man needs to regard himself as a half, and not as a complete person.

"...half of the shekel..."  (in Hebrew:  "Mechatzit HaShekel") (Shemot 30:13)

In the Hebrew word "Mechatzit" (in English: "Half of"), the first letter is "Mem" and the last letter is "Tav", which together spell the Hebrew word "Mait" (in English, that means "Dead"), the second letter and the letter next to the last are the letters "Chet" and "Yud", which together form the Hebrew word "Chai" (in English, that means "Alive"). In the middle of the word is the letter "Tzaddi", (which is the first letter of the Hebrew word for "Tzedaka" -- in English, "Charity").  This comes to hint to us that someone who gives Tzedaka (charity) is saved from death to life, as it is written "and Tzedakah will save from death" (in the verses Mishlei 10:2 and Mishlei 11:4).

"... and into the heart of all who are wise of heart I have put wisdom..." (Shemot 31:6)

The Sages, may their memory be blessed, say that Hashem gives wisdom to the wise.  It can be asked, how did they get their original wisdom?  There are those who explain that the intention of this verse is that Hashem gives wisdom to those who have fear of Heaven, which is called wisdom, as it is written "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Hashem" (Tehillim 111:10). And there are those who explain that Hashem gives wisdom to those who want the wisdom and know to appreciate it.

"...Only (in Hebrew: "Ach") observe my Sabbaths..."  (Shemot 31:13)

The Hebrew word "Ach" is a language of limitation and exclusion, as when it is used in the context of  Hagalat Kailim (Kashering pots).  The verse about Kashering pots states: "...Only  (in Hebrew: "Ach") the gold and the silver..." (Bamidbar 31:22).  And the Sages derived from that verse, that the word "Ach" comes to exclude the rust and the tarnish. Therefore one needs to clean the rust off before Kashering the pots.  Similarly it is possible to derive from the current verse (in which the Hebrew word "Ach" is also used) that before Shabbat one needs to clean the "rust" off one's body, and to purify himself by doing repentance in preparation for Shabbat, in order to enter Shabbat when he is clean.  And then he will be able to receive the Shabbat with perfection.  (from the Sefat Emet)

" is a sign forever..." (Shemot 31:17) 

The Shabbat is like a sign.  Just as in the case of a store, even if it is closed, all the time that the sign is hanging at the entrance, it's an indication that the store will be open in the future.  But if the sign is taken down it's an indication that the store will never open again.  Similarly, regarding the Shabbat, if it happens that G-d forbid a Jew stumbles in a sin, all the time that he still observes the Shabbat it's an indication and evidence that he is a Jew who has a connection in his heart to the Holy One Blessed Be He.  But if he doesn't observe the Shabbat, the sign is removed and it's evidence that he doesn't have any connection to the Holy One Blessed Be He and the Torah.  (from the Chafetz Chaim)

"...and he put on his face a mask."  (Shemot 34:33)

The Kli Yakar says that Moshe was a very humble and shy person, and that everyone looked at him, and therefore he put a mask on his face because he felt embarrassed.  But when he came to learn Torah from Hashem he took off the mask because (as it says in Pirkei Avot Chapter 2) "the bashful person cannot learn". 

"...Carve for yourself..."  (Shemot 34:1)

Rashi says about this verse, "the chips shall be yours".  And from the point of view of Mussar (Ethics), when you see on yourself something which is "chipped" or defective in any way, you should not blame this on other people, but reallize that "all the chips are yours", you are responsible for all of it.  

"...the chips shall be yours.  From this Moshe became wealthy..." (Rashi on Shemot 34:1)

Another explanation of Rashi's comment that "the chips shall be yours", is that the chips are a reference to the little bits of free time that a person doesn't usually pay attention to.  But if a person would take advantage of those small bits of free time that seem to crumble into nothing because of their briefness, he will be able to merit to great wealth. If he will gather up those small time segments (and use them for learning Torah), they will add up to many hours and he will merit to be rich in his Torah knowledge because of them.

"You shall not make yourselves molten gods." (Shemot 34:17)

Immediately after this verse it is written: "You shall observe the Festival of Matzot".  (Shemot 34:18) Why are these verses next to each other, and what is the connection between the two of them?  The reason is that on Erev Pesach (the time before Passover), because of much distress and the pressure of the work, it is possible G-d forbid to become angry.  And behold, "everyone who is angry it is as if he is worshipping idols" (Gemara Shabbat 105b).  And that is the reason for the juxtaposition of the Festival of Matzot next to the sin of idol worship.  Similarly the Be'er Haitev brings in the name of the Rokach, that a person should not say ""how much hardship there is in this Pesach", because that is the statement of the Rasha (the wicked one of the four sons discussed in the Passover Hagaddah) who said "What is this work to you?"


The reason for the reading of the Torah Portion of Para (the Red Heifer) is that at the time when the Temple existed and they could sacrifice the Passover offering, someone who was impure because of contact with a dead person was not able to bring the offering unless he became purified beforehand by means of the ashes of the red heifer.  It was necessary to remind and announce to everyone who had become impure from contact with a dead person to purify himself from that impurity, so that he could bring the Passover offering at the right time. 

Therefore  they began early to encourage people about it before the month of Nissan, so that those who lived far away from Jerusalem would already start to leave their cities on Rosh Chodesh Nissan in order to go up to Jerusalem, and while the people were still at home in their cities, they would remind them that if someone had become impure from contact with a dead person, he first needed to purify himself.  And even though, in our many sins, the Temple has been destroyed and we don't have the bringing of the Passover offering and don't have impurity from a dead person which we need to be purified from beforehand, in any event we learn about these commandments and laws and pray before Hashem, may His name be blessed, that also upon us will be cast the purifying waters, in the near future.  And by means of learning these laws may it be considered as if we have purified ourselves from our impurity.

There are those that say that also the reading of the Torah Portion of Para is a Mitzvah D'Oraita (a commandment from the Torah), but the opinion of most of the Halachic authorities is that this reading is a Mitzvah D'Rabanan (a commandment from the Rabbis).  In the Sefer Aruch HaShulchan, and in the Sefer Dovev Meisharim, there are sources brought about this.  And it is written in the Mishna Brura (Section 685, small section 15) that even for a Mitzvah D'Rabanan (a commandment from the Rabbis), it is also necessary to have intention to fulfill the Mitzvah.

"...And they shall take to you..." (Bamidbar 19:2)

The Holy One Blessed Be He said to Moshe that only "to you" I am revealing the reason for the Para Adumah (Red Heifer), and not to anyone else.  And even Shlomo HaMelech that Scriptures says about him that he was wiser than all the people, and he was expert in all kinds of wisdom, did not grasp the secret of the Para Adumah, and that is why he said: "I said that I would become wise, but it is distant from me" (Kohelet Chapter 7).  That is to say, I thought in my heart that I would become wise and succeed to understand the secret of the Para Adumah, and behold, it is distant from me.  The words "it is distant" in Hebrew have the same Gematria (numerical value) as "Para Adumah".

The Torah Portion of "Ki Tisa" has 139 verses, 4 positive commandments and 5 negative commandments.  

Two Torah Scrolls are taken out: 1) for the weekly Torah portion and 2) for the Torah portion of Para, from the beginning of the Torah Portion of Chukat until the words "ad haerev" (in English: until the evening).

The Haftorah is "Vayehi Devar Hashem" (Yechezkel 36)

We say Borchi Nafshi

May you have a light-filled and happy Shabbat.
Shabbat Shalom

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