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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tisa| 5765

Unappreciated Presents

 Of all possible punishments for chet haegel (sin of the golden calf), we would not have expected that the removal of the adayim (adornments) that Bnei Yisrael wore to be so stressed. Yet, the Torah spends three p’sukim discussing it (Shemot 33: 4-6). What were these adornments, and what was the special significance of removing them at that time?
 Rashi (ad loc.) cites the gemara that each of Bnei Yisrael received two crowns when they said “na’aseh v’nishma” (we will do and hear). Despite the historical significance of Bnei Yisrael’s righteous act, receiving Divinely given crowns certainly was a rare gift. This was not the first gift Bnei Yisrael had received in the course of their exodus from Egypt and the subsequent events, such as the splitting of the sea. Certainly, Hashem had kept His word that they would “leave with great riches” (Bereishit 15:14).
 Let us investigate the dynamics of chet haegel. In the confusion Bnei Yisrael were in when Moshe appeared to have died, they approached Aharon with the idea of making a forbidden intermediary to Hashem. Aharon tried to stall them by asking for their jewelry, but they were diligent in handing them over. Should that diligence surprise us? Besides financial considerations, the gold should have reminded them of the love Hashem had showed them when taking them out of Egypt, as evident from the unnecessary gifts that He showered upon them. Instead, they took those symbols of love and used them to betray Hashem’s trust. What is the proper response to such a disturbing betrayal? We can learn something from Moshe’s reaction.
 Moshe was preparing to descend Har Sinai with the luchot habrit (tablets of the covenant). In addition to containing the words of the Ten Commandments, these luchot contained many miraculous qualities. Why were the miracles necessary? They were not, but they again showed Hashem’s love, in wanting to do extra things to inspire Bnei Yisrael to maintain the relationship they had forged at Har Sinai. Upon seeing the egel,Moshedestroyed the luchot. Rashi (34:1) explains his thinking with a parable. Moshe was like a family friend who ripped up the ketuba of the king’s wife who committed adultery to soften the severity of the punishment.
 What difference does a ketuba make, as it does not create marriage or prove marriage? A ketuba is a sign of the husband’s love and dedication to go beyond the basic obligations of marriage and provide his wife with an extra sense of (financial) security. Moshe felt that Bnei Yisrael, while not relinquishing the covenant forged at Sinai, no longer deserved the signs of extra affection that the luchot engendered. These special luchot also obligated them to respond with extra dedication, not betrayal. Similarly, Bnei Yisrael, who had taken the gold that Hashem lovingly gave them to betray Him, had to be willing to admit that they no longer could claim the right to special crowns. They had to return to the building blocks of the covenantal relationship, with humanly hewn tablets and without special crowns.
We must remember that while it is wonderful to merit to receive extensive, miraculous, Divine gifts, the recipient should try to demonstrate that he remains on the level to justify his adorning himself with those gifts.
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This edition of
Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R’ Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.,
Yitzchak Eliezer Ben Avraham Mordechai Jacobson o.b.m.

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