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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tisa| 5764
The Effects of the Chet HaegelHarav Yosef Carmel
We know that the punishmentfor the chet haegel (the Golden Calf) has been a part of Jewish tragedy throughout the generations (see Shemot 32:33-34 and Yalkut Shimoni, Ki Tisa 393). But in the short term after the sin, it had a broader affect than many know.
There is a famous machloket among rishonim if the commandment to construct the mishkan (tabernacle) preceded the chet haegel or followed it and was actually necessary because of the sin. The philosophical background behind that machloket is the question whether the service of sacrifices is the ideal one or became necessary as an antidote to Bnei Yisrael’s tendencies, as uncovered during the chet haegel.
The Meshech Chuchma and some of the Gra’s disciples paved a new approach to this issue. They are of the opinion that the command to erect the mishkan did precede the sin but that there were changes that resulted from the accompanying spiritual deterioration. Let us give a halachic consequence of this concept.
In the beginning of our parasha, in close proximity after the discussion of the mishkan, the Torah writes, “Only (ach), my Shabbatot you should keep” (Shemot 31:13). From there, R. Yossi Hag’lili learns that on Shabbat, work is sometimes permitted, namely when it is necessary for pikuach nefesh (saving lives). The p’sukim in the beginning of Parashat Vayakhel (ibid. 35:3-4) bring the commandment of Shabbat before the retelling of the command to build the mishkan. The Rabbis learn from that order that Shabbat is not to be violated even by the construction of the mishkan. But this is difficult. Why can’t we learn from the opposite order in Ki Tisa that the mishkan precedes Shabbat?
According to the approach of the Meshech Chuchma, we have an answer to this question. Before the chet haegel, when the mishkan was to have been on a higher level, the construction was to have been continued even on Shabbat. This is hintedto in the beginning of our parasha, which is before the sin. By Vayakhel, after the mishkan’s spiritual downscaling that was caused by the sin, the halacha became that Shabbat had precedence over the building of the mishkan.
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