PARASHAS KI SISA The incident of the Egal
The עגל is one of the most difficult events to understand in the entire history of Klal Yisroel, including current time. רש''י quotes a גמרא in סנהדרין (כ''א) on the פסוק of ויום פקדי ופקדתי . It states that whenever Hashem administers punishment in this world , it has an element of עגל in it – it helps atone for the sin.
Simply put, every צרה experienced today has the DNA of the עגל. The עגל therefore is one of the most difficult events to understand in past and present history as it has ramifications today.
The גמרא tells us אבות על בנים ובנים על אבותם לא יומת – that descendants will not suffer the consequences of the sins of their predecessors. There is an exception – כשאוחוזים מעשה אבותיהם בידיהם – unless the descendants continue in the sinful ways of their predecessors.
If every punishment we experience has a component of עגל in it then we must be perpetuating the original עבירה in some way. This leaves us with a big question- how can we be perpetuating the sin of the עגל today if the יצר הרע was עבודה זרה was removed by the אנשי כנסת הגדולה?
To answer this, we need understand what the actual sin was. This is important because only with the understanding of the actual form of the חטא , will we able to be work away from it.
Clearly, it is not the actual sin of ע''ז – we have no connection to the actual תאוה for it. A גמרא in ברכות demonstrates the extent of disconnect we have to idol worship. A תנא reduced מנשה המלך because he was taken by ע''ז; מנשה appeared in a dream to the תנא and told him that he lived during that era, he would have picked up his robes to enable him to run faster to serve ע''ז. The point is that we simply don’t understand the desire for idol worship.
Although from the פסוק, the sin seems to outright idolatry וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ אֵ֤לֶּה אֱלֹהֶ֨יךָ֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַיַּֽעֲשֵׂ֖הוּ עֵ֣גֶל מַסֵּכָ֑ה, other facts don’t allow this to be the conclusion.
1. The חזקוני questions the ability of the אהרן הכהן – the 'גדול הדר' instructing the people to build an עגל. (It’s like taking the best guy in Lakewood and saying other than making an עגל , he is the next 'גדול הדר. It is just an impossible situation to have occurred. It is impossible that the sin was an outright action of idol-worship.
2. בנ''י achieved כפרה for this sin; this is shown when משה davened for 40 days; סלחתי כדברך with the י''ג מדות that ה' showed to מ''ר.
This is also in direct contrast to the sin of the מרגלים – as a result of which, every person had to die before א''י could be entered and תשע באב was decreed to forever become the sad day.
It is clear that an act of idol-worship was done, although not with those intentions; we are told further עגל seems to have a second thing - אלא להתיר להם עריות – they wanted it enable them to commit acts of גלוי עריות. This now compounds the question of what the actual sin of the Golden Calf was.
It does seem strange that the sin of מרגלים which was based in לשון הרג, about which one can say that there were traces of כפירה as demonstrates lack of true understanding in that ה' is כל יכול and that כי חזק הוא ממנו. However, there is no חייב מיתה even for this, yet the end result was that they all had to die.
We have to understand the צורה of חטא to understand why the sin of the Spies, a comparatively ‘light’ עבירה was punishable with death, yet the חטא העל which involved 2 of the ג' עבירות חמורות had no such punishment.
WHAT THE חטא העגל ACTUALLY WAS
INTENTIONS: The רמב''ן explains that בנ''י were seeking רוחנית מ''ר was leaving to שמים and they wanted something to fill the gap. The significance of the shape of the עגל was that ה'’s celestial ‘throne’ is shaped like an ox – they wanted a connection to that.
This is what the בית הלוי explains as the פשוט פשט in the followingפסוק - הֶ֤רֶף מִמֶּ֨נִּי֙ וְאַשְׁמִידֵ֔ם וְאֶמְחֶ֣ה אֶת־שְׁמָ֔ם מִתַּ֖חַת הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם וְאֶֽעֱשֶׂה֙ אוֹתְךָ֔ לְגֽוֹי־עָצ֥וּם וָרָ֖ב מִמֶּֽנּוּ – ה' wants to destroy כ''י and make a new nation from משה. He responds כ' עמך הגוי הגדול הזה – that ה' should refrain from doing so as the sin was mistaken result of them being הגוי הגדול – of wanting to be close to ה'.
In light of this, our question now changes: was the עגל actually good or bad? And if it were done with good intentions, is a severe punishment in order? (they were doing to die for this.)
The question now is what was the עגל – good or bad? There were good intentions, so was it idolatry or not?
Another point to compound that question is that they did not yet have the תורה, in that case how could they be blamed for acting in a way that did not correlate with the מצות when they had not yet received them?
Spies: The מרגלים, on a very subtle level conceived their plan with evil intention, as opposed to by the עגל when they were done with holy intentions. With the מרגלים, there was השחתה in מדות, with לשון הרע.
ר' שמעון שקאף repeats a question of the Gordner Rosh Yeshiva asks a question – why were the לוחת broken? משה could have simply educated the people. Really, the question is why this ‘angered’ ה'?
Structure of the Sin: There are 3 parts to the עגל :
- Intentions – get close to Hashem
- The action – an act of idol worship
- The root of the intentions; they can be לשם שמים or self-centred. (For example, you can have 2 people eating שבת food, one because they love שבת, one because they love themselves.)
According to the רמב''ן, the root of the desire for closeness to Hashem was תאוה. This can be proved by looking at the פסוקים.
If you look at רש''י on אֵ֤לֶּה אֱלֹהֶ֨יךָ֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל– the לשון of the פסוק is אֵ֤לֶּה – plural, but אֱלֹהֶ֨יךָ֙ is singular.
רש’’י says it was a personal תאוה. This explains the point that they committed this sin in order to free themselves to access the relationships they desired. (Every תאוה is rooted in the תאוה for עריות.) Here the intentions were making the rotten roots of the actions.
If you look in history, the leaders of any movement associated with idolatry are enmeshed in illicit activities. This can be understood with the point mentioned above – the act of idolatry is rooted in תאוה.
This point is clearly demonstrated below:
סָ֣רוּ מַהֵ֗ר מִן־הַדֶּ֨רֶךְ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר צִוִּיתִ֔ם עָשׂ֣וּ לָהֶ֔ם עֵ֖גֶל מַסֵּכָ֑הלֶךְ־רֵ֕ד כִּ֚י שִׁחֵ֣ת עַמְּךָ֔ אֲשֶׁ֥ר הֶֽעֱלֵ֖יתָ מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם
The להם would be irrelevant if not for the way the פסוק is read – there is a break after עָשׂ֣וּ לָהֶ֔ם – they made it for themselves – תאוה - it is separate from the next bit that reads עֵ֖גֶל מַסֵּכָ֑ה.
It’s clear from Chazal that חטא אדם has got to do with the עגל – let’s look at the sequence of history:
1. חטא אדם
2. הרר סיני – they fixed that sin
3. The עגל – they went back to the situation of אדם post-sin
4. משכן – a situation of אדם הראשון קודם החטא
This is what חז''ל tell us, a sampling of sources are below:
With the משכן, we have ½ shekel first כפר לכפר על – many of the מפרשים learn that this is מתקן for the עגל . רש’’י says that the אֲדָנִ֛ים – sockets were made of these שקלים and were able to atone for this as the משכן was a tikkun.
We have the same structure of sin for חטא אדם:
- Intention – ידע טוב ורע as ה' does – to have a connection with ה'.
- Action – went against צוה ה' by eating from the עץ הדעת.
- Roots – this can be seen from what the פסוק says וַתֵּ֣רֶא הָֽאִשָּׁ֡ה כִּ֣י טוֹב֩ הָעֵ֨ץ לְמַֽאֲכָ֜ל וְכִ֧י תַֽאֲוָה־ה֣וּא לָֽעֵינַ֗יִם וְנֶחְמָ֤ד הָעֵץ֙ לְהַשְׂכִּ֔יל וַתִּקַּ֥ח מִפִּרְי֖וֹ וַתֹּאכַ֑ל – it was stemming from תאוה.
In one’s mind, one can be planning things to uplift and elevate themselves, but the שרש is still תאוה. This then manifests itself in lack of clarity – what should one do? The answer to take with oneself is only to do something if it צוה ה'.
The עגל evolved into itself; הרר סיני was a tikkun because of נעשה ונשמע– they were completely מבטל themselves to רצון ה'. This is a תקון for the result of having impure intentions and as a result not following ה'’s directives.
In this פרשה, it states 18 times that the משכן was set up in the way ה' commanded משה – this was the basis of it.
אֲנִ֞י הִנֵּ֧ה נָתַ֣תִּי אִתּ֗וֹ אֵ֣ת אָֽהֳלִיאָ֞ב בֶּן־אֲחִֽיסָמָךְ֙ לְמַטֵּה־דָ֔ן וּבְלֵ֥ב כָּל־חֲכַם־לֵ֖ב נָתַ֣תִּי חָכְמָ֑ה וְעָשׂ֕וּ אֵ֖ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוִּיתִֽךָ – it tells us that ה' granted extra wisdom to those who would be involved in the creation of the משכן.
Why was it necessary to do so if no personal חכמה was needed – it was just about following instructions. (Think: idea of the owner of a construction company – he has the blueprint, the wisdom, the workers are just following instructions.)
This is why on the very day of their ‘marriage’, of נעשה ונשמע, the יצ''הר came with schemes to undo the תיקון that had been achieved.
Based on this idea, it is clear why the פרה אדמה, which is a חק, atones for the עגל which was done with חשבונות..
רש''י brings down Tosfas who brings down a מגילה (28:32) that the women didn’t want to give the gold for the עגל . Because of this, they have ראש חדש.
According to Pirkei Eliezer, the women followed the instructions of their leader, אהרן הכהן, and were prepared to give their jewellery. However, they would not give it to their husbands when they asked for it as they sensed something was amiss.
The was an action of התבטלות to דעת תורה.
The Seforno (Bamidbar Pinchos 28:11) tells us that ראש חדש is a tremendous יום טוב because it symbolizes that ישראל goes after the moon and not the sun. The מעלה of the moon and therefore of כ''י is that the moon does not have its own light, so too, כ''י has nothing on its own our חיית comes from ה'.
After the moon complained about the size of both lights to ה', its size was shrunk. This was not a punishment, rather a lesson that the aim in this world is to be מבטל oneself, not to be a מלך. This was actually the biggest recognition for the moon – כ''י could now follow its example.
We make a יום טוב of the shrinking of the moon as it marks a time from thereafter that it could be an ‘example’ to ישראל.
This was the עגל – they couldn’t be מתנטל themselves.
The Seforno explains on עַם־קְשֵׁה־עֹ֖רֶף הֽוּא that they were originally were going to be killed because they were lacking the ability to be מבטל themselves and take heed of מוסר.
The Midrash (R’ Meir) tells us that at the same time as accepting the תורה, the had plans to make the עגל. The understanding of this based on what has been clarified so far is that had loftiest intentions of becoming close to ה' but it was not בלב שלם, incomplete נעשה ונשמע shows a lack of התבטלות and this is ע''ז.
(Yalkut Shimoni) עגל began with the word זה and punishment was therefore delivered with the word זה, this is also true for the חרבון and the arrival of משיח.
- ּ כִּי־זֶ֣ה משֶׁ֣ה הָאִ֗ישׁ- this is where the עגל begins; there is a lack of התבטלות – a disregard in the way these words are spoken.
על זה היה אדם... חשקו ענינו – their eyes became dark הרר ציון ששם – it became deserted from the סנהדרין – the cause of removal of סנהדרין was because of the ּ כִּי־זֶ֣ה משֶׁ֣ה הָאִ֗ישׁ. They were removed 40 years before the חרבון corresponding what happened by the עגל – there is an element in every generation.
This is why התנטלת לגדולי הדר is so lacking in every generation – that essence that needs fighting.
When משיח comes – כי זה אלקינו קוינו לו… we’ve been waiting to be מבטל ourselves to Hashem.
Yalkut Shimoni us that it was decreed from that point onwards that תורה would have to be learned with difficulty. This cannot be as a punishment as Chazal tell us that there will be double reward for it. It can be understood by learning a Yerushalmi (Tannis Perek 4 Halacha 5) Hashem was ‘holding’ 2 tefochim of luchos, as was Moshe. There were 2 tefochim left in the middle. After the עגל, there was a tug-of-war and Moshe ‘overpowered’ Hashem. This is how רש’’י explains that the luchos became heavy for Moshe and fell – he explains that it was the end result of the tug-of-war.
They accepted the תורה the first time in an insincere fashion, after that they would have to show that they really want it, hence the Yalkut’s words.
The tests of life – Hashem pulls one way – it’s hard (to learn) but one can triumph by fighting back.
The Zohar explains that it was the earrings that were taken for the עגל – ear: they wanted to take off anything that had connection to the שמע.