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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tisa 5781

Parashat Hashavua: Quality Over Quantity

Harav Yosef Carmel

[This is an updated, free translation/adaptation of Rav Carmel’s d’var Torah from last year. It is telling that election season and Corona are once again/still on our minds at this time of year.]

“When you count (Ki tisa) the heads of Bnei Yisrael according to their numbers, each shall give the atonements of his spirit to Hashem when they are being counted, and there should not be a plague as they are counted” (Shemot 30:12). The counting reminds us of the upcoming elections and the plague reminds us of the not yet finished Corona pandemic.

Rav Yisraeli z.t.l. taught us that one of the problems with an attempt to define Am Yisrael through numbers is giving precedence to quantity over quality. Undoubtedly, counting votes should decide on a quantitative basis who has more support. In all of the recent elections, the goal was one – increasing the number of votes your party receives. Literally everything is focused on that.

But what are the ethical boundaries that exist during the quest to reach that goal? This question was not raised by almost any political party regarding their activities. Personal attacks, of the lowest kind, turned into the norm and were legitimized (using religious terminology, with a “mehadrin hechsher”).

The question of how we can turn the State of Israel into a more Jewish state from an ethical and religious perspective was not brought to the fore by any party. Some religious parties may have raised the issue of Shabbat observance, which is a value-based matter, but it was done in the manner of: “Give us more votes so we can pass legislation to forbid the desecration of Shabbat.” There was not a focus on how to promote greater love and respect for Shabbat within the wider population in all of its “shades.” Other parties highlighted the settlement of the land, which is a fundamental matter, but they too focused on how to get enough seats to improve matters through legislation. Everyone forgot that such goals can only really be achieved by increasing love; coercion only increases resistance. Even if people affirm “We need unity,” it remains hollow unless one introduces a list of agreed-upon values to elevate Israeli society and bring it closer to our Father in Heaven.

These ideas are included in the phrase “ki tisa,” which has multiple meanings. Noseh can mean to forgive (Hashem is “noseh sin, failings, and iniquity and erases fault” (Shemot 34:7). Another meaning is elevating: When the Torah says “naso” the head in the context of counting, the midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 4) relates it to: “(Evil-Merodach was noseh the head of Yehoyachin the king of Yehuda from the prison …” (Melachim II, 25:27-28). Years ago, we wrote to combine them – to elevate society by people forgiving each other.

The pasuk ends with avoiding plagues. When dealing with Corona, we have gotten used to quarantines separating people from the rest of society and social distancing. In order to deal with such challenges successfully, there must be true unity and agreement on certain principles, which we are able to agree upon. Doing so helps avoid the disintegration of the society, which is our biggest danger. If we go about this seriously, we will merit seeing a nation experiencing “light, happiness, joy, and honor” (Esther 8:16).
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We daven for a complete and speedy refuah for:

Nir Rephael ben Rachel Bracha
Yisrael ben Rivka

Rivka Reena bat Gruna Natna

Meira bat Esther

Together with all cholei Yisrael


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Tishrei 9 ,5776


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Tishrei 20 ,5781


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Iyar 8 ,5776


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bat RMoshe Zev a”h.

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