Perashat Ki Tisa & the Golden Calf

By Mr. Jack E. Rahmey Mar 02, 2018 12:26 PM KiTisa

The parasha begins as Hashem tells Moshe to take a census of B'nei Yisrael. Hashem says to Moshe, every man from twenty years and up shall give a half shekel as an atonement for his soul when counting them. They shall give "Mahatzit Hashekel" (half a shekel)....the wealthy shall not give more and the poor man shall not give less than half a shekel. One reason for half a shakel is because all of B'nei Yisrael are like half and we need each other to become whole....."Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Lazeh", all of us are connected to each other because Jews are supposed to help one another!

The word 'Mahatzit' in Hebrew is spelled with the letters: ..."Mem-Het-Tzadi-Yod-Tav". The middle letter is a Tzadi which stands for 'Tzedakah' (charity). The 2 middle letters that surround the Tzadi are 'Het-Yod' which spells 'Hai' (Life) and the outer letters are 'Mem and Tav'...which spells 'Met' (dead). So what the word 'Mahatzit' says, is that when you give charity, you will have Life and if you don't give Tzedakah, then it may lead to the opposite, Hass V'shalom. As the pasuk says....."Tzedakah Tatzil Memavet"...(Charity Saves us from Death!"). 

B'nei Yisrael were concerned when they thought Moshe was late from coming off from Har Sinai. So because they miscalculated Moshe’s return by just 6 hours, they approached Aharon to make a golden calf as an intermediary to Hashem to replace Moshe. According to a Gemara in masechet Sanhedrin (7a), Aharon made a calculation after he saw his nephew killed for not submitting to build the golden calf.

Aharon thought that if he would protest and they would kill him, then they would be in violation of the sin of killing a Kohen and a Navi in the Mishkan of Hashem which there would be no teshuvah for. So it would be better that Aharon let them build the golden calf which they could make teshuvah for. So for this reason and in order to delay the people, Aharon told them...."Bring me your wives gold jewels". Aharon assumed correctly that the wives would be reluctant to give up their jewlery, especially for creating a golden calf. For this reason the women were granted every Rosh Chodesh as a Holiday which gives them a day off from their house work! 

The question that's asked is how can a nation that was at such a high level after being saved by Hashem with so many miracles to the pinnacle of receiving the Torah to then stoop to such a low level where they can erect an idol in the form of the golden calf? The answer is Worry and Panic! According to Rav Chaim Schmuelevitz, once the people began to worry and had became depressed, the Satan was able to see a weakness in the people and attack.

Rabbi Twersky says the answer is not to make any important decisions when your in a worried state of mind. That was the mistake B'nei Yisrael committed, they rushed to make this sin of the golden calf that we are still paying for to this very day. Rabbi Sananes taught us that our holidays are an atonement for the sin of the golden calf and he described it this way. We have 15 days of Yom Tov throughout the year with Pesach, Shavuout and Succot which equals 15 days x 24 hrs in a day that equals 360hrs. B'nei Ysrael miscalculated by 6hrs so those 6hrs become Batel Ba Shishiim (nullified by 60) which is the 360 hours of all our holidays.  

As Moshe finally descended from Har Sinai with the two tablets in his hands which were the handiwork of Hashem on stone of sapphire. The Torah describes the very manner in which the tablets were inscribed as a testimony to their Divine origin because the letters can be read from either side. The word 'Engraved' in Hebrew is 'Harut'. Our Rabbi's teach us that it can also be read "Herut" which means "Freedom", which teaches us that the only truly Free person is one who engages in the study of Torah, (Pirke Avot, perek 6:2).

The Torah goes on to elaborate (32:16) "The Tablets were G-d's handiwork, and the script was the script of G-d, engraved on the tablets". Rabbi Frand then points out that when Moshe received the tablets from Hashem the pasuk (31:18), simply states "Hashem gave the two Tablets of Testimony, stone tablets inscribed by the finger of G-d." So Rabbi Frand asks the question, why the Torah doesn't say much when the tablets are given to Moshe but then elaborates when Moshe destroys them. The answer is that when we have something that's precious to us, we don't always appreciate it until we lose it.       

When Moshe reached the bottom of the mountain, he saw with his own eyes what B'nei Yisrael had done with the golden calf and how they began to worship it. Because of his anger, he threw down the Tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. Many people may ask, why did Moshe have to shatter the Tablets?

Rabbi Sananas taught us that Hazal said that by Moshe throwing down the tablets, it was as if he tore up the marriage contract so that B'nei Yisrael would not be destroyed. B'nei Yisrael has been compared to as the bride of Hashem and by making the golden calf, its as if we were unfaithful to Hashem and deserved to be destroyed. Moshe stopped that decree by throwing down the tablets, thereby tearing up the contract between B'nei Yisrael and Hashem. So if there was no contract, the sin was not completed and we would still be able to make teshubah! Until today we are still trying to atone for that sin of the "Het HaEgel".   

May we always feel the closeness that we felt at Har Sinai with all our fellow Jews as we did with the Mahatzit Hashekel to help each other in times of need!