Torah Fax
Friday, March 9, 2007 - 19 Adar, 5767

Torah Reading Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11 - 34:35)
Candle Lighting Time 5:37 PM
Shabbat ends 6:38 PM 

Parshat Parah

The Rare Medium

This week's parsha tells us that just forty days after hearing directly from G‑d at Mt. Sinai that they were not to have any other g-ds, the Jews created and worshiped a golden calf!
Commentators grapple with this bizarre episode. How was it possible that a people that were raised so high by the experience at Sinai could descend so low in just forty days?
One partial answer to this question is actually provided for in the text of the Torah itself that describes how Moses' descent from Mount Sinai was delayed. As the Torah recounts: "When the people saw that Moses was delayed to come down from the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, 'Arise, make us a g-d who shall go before us; for as for this Moses… we know not what is become of him.'"
Rashi explains: Moses had told the people that he would return in forty days. The people assumed that the forty days would begin from the time Moses ascended Sinai. Since Moses ascended the mountain in middle of the day, they assumed that he would return in middle of the day; forty days later. Moses, however, did not consider the day that he ascended as the first day, since it was not a complete day, inasmuch as a Jewish day starts the night before.
Thus, when Moses did not return on the day that the was thought to be day number forty, they were convinced that Moses was not going to return at all and that he needed to be replaced.
From this we can see that the Jews' request for a replacement for Moses was based on their miscalculation. This subsequently degenerated into a desire for another g-d, which ended with worshipping the golden calf. In other words, there was a "slippery slope" form of regression that began with an innocent miscalculation and ended with the worst possible deviation from G‑d.
But it is hard to imagine that such an innocent mistake in calculating Moses' return could snowball into a most heinous breach of creating a Golden Calf. This must lead us to the conclusion that there was something very wrong with their conclusion that since Moses was delayed that he would not return at all.
Indeed, the fact that Moses said that he would return should not have been questioned by the people even if it appeared that the deadline for his return had past. Moses' word to them should have been as good as if G‑d had said it.
It is axiomatic in Judaism that Moses' prophetic powers were qualitatively different from all other prophets. Only Moses had an unobstructed prophetic vision. When Moses communicated G‑d's message it was uncolored by his personality. There was nothing subjective about how he communicated G‑d's word.  And if Moses said he was going to return in forty days, there should not have been any question about the veracity of his words, notwithstanding their inability to reconcile the forty day period predicted by Moses with their perceived reality.
In other words, the sin of the golden calf occurred ultimately because the Jewish people ignored Moses' role as G‑d's chosen prophet and spokesman. If their belief in Moses would have been intact, they would not have degenerated into idol worship.
Once they erred in doubting the veracity of Moses' word, they were led to another fundamental error: creating the golden calf to serve as a substitute for Moses. As commentators note, their initial desire was not for another g-d. They wanted a replacement for Moses, a medium through which G‑d could communicate to them.
This was an egregious error, which was generated by their first mistake. The thought that people can create a mechanism for G‑d to communicate to them is blasphemous. Only G‑d can choose who or what shall represent Him and serve as the conduit of His directives to the world. We cannot create media for G‑d. Ultimately, this mistake led the Jews to commit outright idolatry. 
We have been told by Jewish leaders of recent generations that we are on the verge of the Messianic Redemption. Particularly the Lubavitcher Rebbe has informed us-and characterized this information as "prophetic"-that the Redemption is imminent.
It seems however that Moshiach, as with Moses of the golden calf debacle, has delayed his coming. This can lead some of us to doubt the veracity of the predictions and declarations concerning Moshiach. The next step, G‑d forbid, can be a loss of faith in the entire concept of Moshiach, one of the Thirteen Principles of Faith. Once one's faith in one of the Thirteen Principles has been undermined, it can even lead us down the "slippery slope" to deny the other principles of faith as well.
To forestall any of these breaches of faith, we were provided by the Torah in this week's parsha with a similar scenario, which we can apply to our own situation.
Just as Moses' words were ultimately proven true - he did return from Mt. Sinai - so too will the prophetic statements made by the Torah leaders of our time come true, even if we do not understand now why it hasn't already happened. We should never allow our calculations to cast doubt either on our faith in G‑d, or His promise to bring us Moshiach, or the words of our Sages and prophets.

Moshiach Matters

I was pleased to read of your decision to engage in the diffusion of the light of Chassidus, and so on. It is a pity, though, that you are deferring this for some time, when "behold, [Mashiach] is standing behind our wall," and is being delayed only because the wellsprings are not yet sufficiently widespread. Can anyone measure [the Jewish people's] anguish with every additional moment of exile, or [their] bliss in every additional moment of the Era of the Redemption? (From a Letter of the Rebbe)
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