KI SISA (Exodus, 30:11-34:35) — “‘Los ANGELES’ (‘City of ANGELS’) or San Francisco?”

Nobody likes to stand out and look different. 

You’ve been invited to a state dinner.  Everyone who is anyone has been invited.  You want to be sure to do everything right.  You place your napkin on your lap just as everyone else has.  You look around apprehensively to make sure that you use each of the twelve forks and seventeen teaspoons in proper sequence.  

You’ve read all the books on proper etiquette.  You see to it that you know the proper bow or curtsey and how to address the Ambassador.  You’ve memorized the appropriate greeting for the Prime Minister.  You are committed to get it right!

————-

It is very important to defer to the protocols of the community you visit.  Even angels do it for humans, and humans do it for the angels: 

… He (Abraham) stood by them (three angels who appeared to be men) under the tree, and they ate.  (Genesis, 18:8) 

He (Moses) was there (Mt. Sinai/Heaven) with G-d for forty days and forty nights.  He ate no bread and drank no water.  (Exodus, 34:28) 

Based upon the above two verses, the Talmud (Bava Metzia, 86b) advises us to respect local custom.  Humans require food for sustenance.  Angels, who are spiritual beings, do not.  Yet, the angels, out of respect for Abraham, honored him by accepting his offer of food, while Moses had to adhere to the angelic way of life by engaging in a forty-day fast.

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WHOSE NEIGHBORHOOD DO YOU LIVE IN? 

We just read that one should follow the customs that are acceptable in the locale in which he finds himself.  Does this mean that we should have one set of values in Jerusalem, Monsey and Boro Park, and a different set of values in San Francisco, New Paltz, and Massachusetts?! 

Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the Alter (“Elder”) of Slobodka, points out, based upon several verses, exactly Whose neighborhood we occupy: 

G-d went before them … to guide them along the way… (Ibid, 13:21) … You, the ones who remain attached to G-d are all alive today.  (Deuteronomy, 4:4) … I have set G-d in front of me at all times… (Psalms, 16:8) 

So it seems that we find ourselves in G-d’s presence at all times.  It therefore behooves us, in deference to “local custom,” to conduct ourselves in a G-dly fashion.  And what exactly does that entail? 

Rabbi Finkel cites the Talmud’s (Shabbos, 133b) reference to a verse from this week’s Torah Portion. 

Moses wanted to know what G-d is “all about.”  G-d responded with the “Thirteen Attributes:”  

G-d revealed Himself in a cloud…and (Moses) called out in G-d’s Name…G-d passed before him and proclaimed, “G-d, G-d, a merciful and kind G-d, slow to anger, and abundant in kindness and truth; He remembers kindness for thousands (of generations), forgiving sin, rebellion and error, and cleanses…” (Exodus, 34:5-7) 

Abba Shaul in the Talmud tells us that “… just as G-d is kind, you too should be kind.  Just as G-d is merciful, you too should be merciful…”

——————

Just as G-d loves honesty, brotherhood, and morality, so should we.  Just as G-d abhors deceit, hatred, and perversion (of ALL kinds), so should we. 

You and I are guests in G-d’s home.  Just imagine for a moment — How different would the world be if we all kept that one thought in mind at all times? 

We can’t change the world.  We can, however, change ourselves.  And that, in time, can change the world as well.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

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From the Archives 

“Fool’s Gold” (2010)

“The statistics linking smoking to lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, and burn marks on furniture are inconclusive.”

“Seat belts are too restrictive. Many people have died because they couldn’t get out of their cars quickly enough.”

“I’m only going to taste one tiny sliver of this Double-Decadent Chocolate Cream Pie…”

“Honest, Mom, It’s only a date… ”

“Marijuana is NOT addictive! It’s not as if it will lead to taking something dangerous …”

“I don’t need to hire a Mohel. I can do it myself. I’ve watched it being done dozens of times…”

Do we really believe the lies we tell ourselves? …

Read more.

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 “Who WAS That Masked Man?” (2009)

 It was to be the very first Yom Kippur.   Moses was returning from the summit of Mount Sinai. He was carrying in his hands two blocks of sapphire.

 This was his second such journey. Last time Moses came down the mountain carrying stone blocks he was dismayed by what he saw… He discovered his People dancing around a Golden Calf…Moses smashed the Tablets; his People weren’t ready for them.

Now Moses was bringing a new set of Tablets. G-d had accepted Moses’ prayers for forgiveness for His People. Every year we commemorate that day as Yom Kippur, a day when G-d is prepared to forgive his People for their shortcomings.

 Yes, Moses was back. He had returned to his nation… But something was different… it was… his face!…

 Read more.

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“Hot Cash” (2008)

 The Children of Israel sinned.  They sinned egregiously.  They melted their gold and formed it into a statue of a calf.  They danced around that statue, referring to it as their god who had taken them out of Egypt.  This was a terrible sin.  G-d almost wiped out the entire nation as a punishment.

 They needed to atone for their sin…

 Simply put, the Israelites sinned against G-d by melting their gold into an idol.  They atoned for this sin by melting their silver into a Temple for G-d.

 …This is what they must give …a half-shekel… 

 There were certain commandments that Moses didn’t fully understand.  The Half Shekel was one of them.  The Torah says …This is what they must give …a half shekel… The Talmud says that G-d showed Moses a fiery half-shekel coin, and said, “It should be like this.”

Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin asked why Moses was so confused.  Why did he need to see what a half-shekel looked like?  Had he never seen such a coin before?  And why did G-d show him a half-shekel of fire?  Wouldn’t a regular silver coin have sufficed to clarify the requirement?

 … Moses knew quite well what a silver coin looked like; that wasn’t his question… 

Read more.

———————————————————————————-

“‘Los ANGELES’ (‘City of ANGELS’) or San Francisco?” (2004)

 .. It is very important to defer to the protocols of the community you visit. Even angels do it for humans, and humans do it for the angels:

 “… He (Abraham) stood by them (three angels who appeared to be men) under the tree, and they ate.” (Genesis, 18:8)

 “… He (Moses) was there (Mt. Sinai/Heaven) with G-d for forty days and forty nights. He ate no bread and drank no water.” (Exodus, 34:28)

 Based upon the above two verses, the Talmud (Bava Metzia, 86b) advises us to respect local custom. Humans require food for sustenance. Angels, who are spiritual beings, do not. Yet, the angels, out of respect for Abraham, honored him by accepting his offer of food, while Moses had to adhere to the angelic way of life by engaging in a forty-day fast…

 We just read that one should follow the customs that are acceptable in the locale in which he finds himself. Does this mean that we should have one set of values in Jerusalem, Monsey and Boro Park, and a different set of values in San Francisco, New Paltz, and Massachusetts?!…

Read more.

———————————————————————————-

“How Do I Count Thee? …” (2003)

 … How did we get caught up in worshiping the Golden Calf? How could we have strayed so far from the Second Commandment …

Read more.

———————————————————————————-

“Cut Two Tablets and Call Me in the Morning” (2002)

 G-d was angry… Moses said to the people, “… I will go back up to G-d and try to gain forgiveness for your crime.” …

Sounds pretty easy. Too easy. Is that all it takes to be forgiven for sinning? Did you worship idols and rebel against G-d today? Maybe a little murder and adultery while you’re at it? No Problem! Take two Tablets, say thirteen attributes and a few “Hail Moses-es” and call me in the morning! You’re all set! All is forgiven!… Is that what Judaism is all about?! Do whatever you want, and then say a few verses and then everything is okay?! Sounds like another religion!…

Read more.

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“Abs of Steel/Calves of Gold” (2001)

This week, it seems, is the “Week of the Cows.” …The Red Heifer is a Mitzvah that is, in all due respect, totally illogical…

Is there a link between the two colored cows in this week’s Torah Readings? Can we find a connection between the calf of gold and his crimson “mother?” … Is there any logical connection between the sin of bowing down to a calf-shaped molten image, and being sprinkled with a mix containing the ashes of a cow? …

 Read more.

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 This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2015 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com)  and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on March 11, 2004 at 7:28 am  Leave a Comment  

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