No limitations For Matters Of The Soul – Dvar Torah Parshat Ki Tisa 5776 2016

birdflyThe Torah informs the Jewish people in the Wilderness that each one must donate half a Shekel towards the building of the Mishkan. The Torah adds: הֶעָשִׁיר לֹא יַרְבֶּה וְהַדַּל לֹא יַמְעִיט, “The rich shall give no more and the poor give no less…” (Ex. 30,15) This presents an Halachic problem. Our Sages tell us: המבזבז – אל יבזבז יותר מחומש, “If a man wants to spend lavishly (on charity or a Mitzvah) he should not spend more than a fifth (of his wealth). (Ket. 50a)
In the case of the poor man, half a Shekel may represent more than a fifth of his possessions. How is he permitted to perform this Mitzvah?

Rabbi Soloveitchik posed this question and he answered by reading the remainder of the verse. The Torah states this money was to be given: לְכַפֵּר עַל נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם, “to atone for your souls.” In matters of the soul there are no limitations.
The Chafetz Chaim states that when it comes to studying Torah there is also no restrictions. We all know the story of Hillel who earned half a dinar a day and paid half of that to get into the House of Study. This is true for the study of Torah and is also an exception since it brings life and meaning to your soul.
We must be careful with our money so that we ourselves not have to resort to the help of others. However, in certain situations we must not withhold our help.


Dvar Torah Shabbos Chol Hamoed Succot 5775 2014

The Torah reading on Chol Hamo’ed is a portion from the Sidra Ki Tisa where Moshe asks: הוֹדִעֵנִי נָא אֶת־דְּרָכֶךָ, “…make Your ways known to me…”. (Ex. 33,13) There are various interpretations of this request. In the Talmud we find one explanation: מפני מה יש צדיק וטוב לו ויש צדיק ורע לו, יש רשע וטוב לו ויש רשע ורע לו? “Why is it that some righteous men prosper and others are in hardship, some wicked men prosper and others are in hardship?” (Ber. 7a)

This is a question that has disturbed philosophers in every generation. Hashem did not answer this request of Moshe but said to him: וְחַנֹּתִי אֶת־אֲשֶׁר אָחֹן וְרִחַמְתִּי אֶת־ אֲשֶׁר אֲרַחֵם, “…’I will show favor when I choose to show favor, and I will show mercy when I chose to show mercy.” Rabbi Meir in the Talmud explains, in both cases even if he does not deserve it.

Some Rabbi once gave a unique interpretation to this Biblical verse. He said: Hashem said He will be gracious to him who is gracious to others, and will show mercy to him who shows mercy. This is a timely message since it comes directly after Yom Kippur.

Dvar Torah Parshat Ki Tisa 2014 5774 – Honest Business

A businessman once came to a famous Rabbi and told him he has an opportunity to enter into a certain business where he can make a great deal of money. In order to succeed, however, he will have to pull a few unethical tricks.

The Rabbi referred to this week’s Sidra to the verse which tells us about the Ten Commandments. The Torah says: לֻחֹת כְּתֻבִים מִשְּׁנֵי עֶבְרֵיהֶם מִזֶּה וּמִזֶּה, “…Tablets inscribed on both their sides, they were inscribed on one side and the other.” (Ex. 32,15) Why, asked the Rabbi, were we told this? He answered, to tell us that whichever way we read the Torah, it tells us the same laws – you must not steal.

There are people who try to distort the meanings of the laws of the Torah by twisting them one way or another to suit their own fancies. The Torah’s laws are given for us to live a moral and ethical life. Trying to twist the meaning so that we can avoid living the honest Torah’s intent, distorts its function and its purpose.

Dvar Torah Parshat Ki Tisa 2013 5773

In this week’s Portion we read a selection that is recited every Shabbat in the Musaf Amida. The selection starts with וְשָׁמְרוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת “The Children of Israel shall observe the Shabbat…” (Ex. 31,16) The Torah then gives the reason for this observance. “Between me and the Children of Israel it is a sign forever: כִּי שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים עָשָׂה יְקֹוָק אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת הָאָרֶץ that in six days Hashem made heaven and earth…”

This statement appears a number of times in the Torah. It simply says that in order to testify our belief that Hashem created the world we have a week of seven days and we rest on the last day to affirm this conviction.

It is an amazing thing that all over the world, with no exception, everyone operates on the basis of a seven day week. Unbeknownst to others, by keeping a seven day weekly schedule they are in effect testifying to this principle, that Hashem, indeed, created the world in six days and ‘rested’ on the seventh.

There is talk from time to time to change the length of the week but these attempts have never taken hold and never even gotten to first base. The truth is that all mankind recognizes this truth whether they openly acknowledge it or not. Most people today also celebrate a Sabbath indicating this fact. This Sabbath may not coincide with the Jewish Shabbat because they would never admit that it originated with the Jews. Nevertheless, by respecting a Sabbath day they do inadvertently recognize that Hashem created heaven and earth.

Dvar Torah Parshat Ki Tisa 5772 2012

When the Jewish people built the Golden Calf Moshe was on Mt. Sinai. Hashem notifies Moshe of the transgression of the Israelites and tells him to go down from the mountain to the people. He tells Moshe that He will destroy the Bnei Yisrael. Moshe’s immediate reaction is to start praying that Hashem should forgive them. וַיְחַל מֹשֶׁה “And Moshe pleaded before Hashem…”. (Ex. 32,11)

The great commentator on the Torah, Ibn Ezra, states that Moshe did not pray at this particular time. He first went down to the people, destroyed the Golden Calf, and punished the perpetrators of the crime and only then went up again to plead before Hashem on behalf of the Jewish people. What was Ibn Ezra’s reason for this opinion?

My teacher Rabbi Soloveitchik offers an answer to this question. Moshe could not pray for forgiveness while the Golden Calf still existed. How could Hashem forgive the people while they are in the midst of transgressing? He had to correct the situation and then ask for forgiveness.

Hence Moshe went down from the mountain, destroyed the Golden Calf and punished the perpetrators of the crime. Only then did he ascend the mountain again and asked Hashem to forgive the Jewish people.

If we hurt someone’s feelings or mistreat a friend, we cannot expect to be forgiven until we correct the situation we created. Only then can we expect to be pardoned.

Dvar Torah Parshat Ki Tisa 5771 2011

Moshe comes down from the mountain after the Israelites had made the Golden Calf and VAYAR ET HA’EGEL UMECHOLOT, “…he saw the calf and the dances…”. (Ex. 32,19) Then, the Torah states, his anger flared up and he shattered the Tablets of Stone. Why was he surprised when he saw the calf? Hashem had told him that they made it. Why did he bring the Tablets down or why didn’t he shatter them before?

The Seforno answers this question. He says that when Moshe was told that they had made the calf he thought he would come down to them and show them their mistake and they would do Teshuva. When he saw that they were dancing and made merry with such joy, he realized that he will not be able to readily pull them away from the calf. He came to the conclusion that they were not ready for the tablets of the Ten Commandments.

We often make mistakes. If, however, we do not realize our errors and continue to justify what we did then it is much harder for us to correct our ways. We must be ready to face up and recognize our wrong doing. Only then will we be able to correct our faults.

Dvar Torah Parshat Ki Tisa 5770 2010

We are told: USHMARTEM ET HASHABBAT KI KODESH HI LACHEM, “You shall observe the Shabbat for it is holy to you…”.(Ex.31,14) What does the word LACHEM, to you, add? The Shabbat is holy, regardless of other considerations.

The Talmud says, “Everyone agrees in respect to the Shabbat that it is required to be also for you.” (Pes. 68a) This means that although it is a holy day it is also for a person who keeps it to enjoy it. There is a special Mitzvah of Oneg Shabbat.

How does one observe this Mitzvah? With good food and physical rest and pleasures. Hence one would think that he may go beyond reasonable bounds and carry these pleasures to extremes. Thus the Torah emphasizes that although the Shabbat is to be enjoyed, it must be within the confines of holiness. The Shabbat is a holy day which we should take pleasure in, but we must do so in a sensible and sanctified way.