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Shabbos Parshas Terumah

Shabbos Parshas Tetzaveh

Shabbos Parshas Ki Sissa

   20th Day Of Adar I, 5749

Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel, Parshas Shekalim

1st Day of Rosh Chodesh Adar II, 5749

Shabbos Parshas Pikudei

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Ta'anis Esther, 5749

Purim, 5749

Motzoei Shushan Purim, 5749

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Machne Israel Special Development Fund

Yechidus

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Motzoei Shabbos, Parshas Metzora

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Tzivos Hashem/Pesach

6th Day Of Pesach, 5749

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2nd Day Of Iyar, 5749

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Shabbos Parshas Bechukosai

Address To The Women's Convention

Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar

Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5749

Eve Of The 4th Day Of Sivan, 5749

1st Day Of Shavuos, 5749

2nd Day Of Shavuos, 5749

Yechidus Following Shavuos

12th Day Of Sivan, 5749

Eve Of The 13th Of Sivan, 5749

Sichos In English
Volume 41

Shabbos Parshas Ki Sissa
20th Day Of Adar I, 5749
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  13th Day Of Adar I, 574927th Day Of Adar I, 5749  

1

We live with the portion of the week, and every portion adds newness to the life of every Jew. Ki Sissa comes after the narrative of Mattan Torah when we were given the Ten Commandments which encompass all the mitzvos. It also follows the portion of Mishpatim in which we were taught many of the social laws of Torah. The rules of the construction of the Mishkan also precede the portion of Ki Sissa. Although Ki Sissa follows these important chapters in Torah, it still adds something to the life and Divine service of every Jew. It even adds a new level beyond the lofty heights achieved at Mattan Torah.

This idea is presented in the opening words of the portion: "When you will lift up (count) the heads of the Jewish people." No matter how high the Jewish people were before this point, when Moshe was commanded to count the Jews he was told to bring about an elevation in the Jewish people to a new and loftier level.

The Gemara discusses this phenomenon:

Moshe addressed himself to the Holy One, Blessed be He, saying: "Sovereign of the Universe wherewith shall the pride of Israel be exalted?" He replied: "Through Ki Sissa."

Rashi adds:

If you want to raise their heads take their ransom for charity from them. (B. Basra 10b)

Thus, Moshe wondered how to raise the Jewish people and G-d answered: "ransom for charity." Why does this narrative about the shekels add to the loftiness of the Jewish people attained at Mattan Torah? At the giving of the Torah the Jews were chosen by G-d and uplifted above all nations. In addition they became a "kingdom of kohanim and a holy people." Merely to say that the power of tzedakah uplifted them is insufficient because the attribute of benevolence and charitability also existed before Mattan Torah.

Kindness and mercy are part of the social fibre of civilization, even animals show mercy by caring for their young. With the giving of the Torah the attribute of charity became a mitzvah, even before the commandment of the shekels -- so why is it that only with the giving of the half-shekel would the "pride of the Jewish people" be uplifted?

The Midrash relates:

G-d showed Moshe a coin of fire which weighed a half-shekel and said, "They should give a coin like this."

(Tanchuma, Ki Sissa)

By showing Moshe the coin of fire, G-d gave the Jewish people the power that the half-shekel given by each Jew would no longer be a mere physical donation of money, rather each individual would be capable of giving a fiery coin.

In man's Divine service this means that each person would have the potential to add the fiery enthusiasm of the warmth of the G-dly soul to the act of tzedakah.

This is a true innovation in the ransom-charity (the half-shekel) as compared to normal charity, even when commanded by Torah, because here the coin was of fire.

What really was this "coin of fire which weighed a half-shekel"?

The idea of a coin of fire is a combination of two opposites.

Fire has no fixed form. Generally speaking all physical matter has some shape or form (even liquids or gases take on the shape of the container they fill). Although it is physical and visible, nevertheless, fire has no set form, for it constantly flickers and changes its shape and dimension.

On the other hand, a coin has a fixed form and its value depends on the form and image of the coin.

Furthermore, fire (heat energy) has no weight (mass). The other three elemental materials: earth, water and air, do have mass and weight. Even air stays close to the surface of the earth which shows that it has mass. The nature of fire however is to rise above the atmosphere, and it is necessary to keep the flame attached to a wick in order to keep it down below. The reason is that fire always wants to leave its physical existence and to rise; its real being is not in a temporal form rather it desires to be absorbed in its source above. Which is also why it has no set form even in its temporal state.

This aspect comes into focus in the (coin of) fire which G-d showed Moshe. The fact that G-d connected the fire with a specific coin shows that the amorphous fire can also take on the form and weight of a coin.

We may now appreciate how the half-shekel of the ransom-tzedakah raised the head of the Jewish people even higher than Mattan Torah -- because they gave the "coins of fire." Normally charity is given because of the benefactor's good nature or because it is recognized as a means of effecting social good.

A higher form of tzedakah may be accomplished when one realizes that the Torah teaches G-d's commandment to give charity. Even this form of charity involves some form of measurement. He may observe mitzvos because of hoped for reward, material or spiritual.

One may even do a mitzvah not for the sake of reward and even with the condition of no reward. Here there is still a principle involved, the idea of doing a mitzvah out of pure subservience, because G-d said so. He may enjoy being dutiful and observant, and by nature he wants to fulfill G-d's will. The nature of his G-dly soul wishes to cleave to its source in G-dliness.

Being done because of some rationale makes all these forms of tzedakah dependent and thereby limited and "shaped" to the reason or cause.

The ultimate state of Jewish Divine service is "to do the truth because it is truth" -- (Rambam, Laws of Repentance ch. 10) not for any ulterior motive, not even one which is superational. Rather he does it only by virtue of his connection to the Holy One, Blessed be He, and it comes not by motivation, but automatically.

Here the coin-of-fire construct introduces an important insight. Just as fire has no fixed shape and constantly scintillates upwards, similarly, the highest form of charity comes with the fire of enthusiasm. It is not motivated by virtue of natural attributes, nor because of logical consideration, nor for any reward -- for no reason other than its similarity to fire above form or restriction.

On the other hand, by giving charity in the manner of a fiery coin it penetrates to his essential being and becomes his true nature and image so that it also takes on the "weight" of his being, since it is drawn downwards. It becomes his coin of fire which causes him to act reflexively as if by his inherent nature that emerges from the amorphous fire.

The size of the coin was a half-shekel. When a person realizes that his charitable efforts are only "half the goal," then the fire will continue to burn and constantly scintillate upwards, searching for perfection.

We may now perceive how the ransom for charity will raise the pride of the Jewish people even above the level attained at Mattan Torah.

Giving a coin of fire effects a novel power in the Divine service of a Jew even as compared to Mattan Torah. As they were at Mattan Torah the Divine service could be limited by the conformity to reason or rationale -- with a shape or form. The Divine service of fire is not limited by intellect or nature or even will, it is above all form. This aspect penetrates his coin. So it brings a new and loftier aspect to the Divine service of the Jewish people, like a coin of fire.

With this in mind we may understand the reason tzedakah is the mitzvah which raises the "pride of the Jewish people." Pure tzedakah (absolute charity) is achieved when there is no motivating factor which engenders the act of charity. When there is a reason or an obligation to give, then it is not pure charity, rather it is something which is necessary.

Having achieved the ideal in tzedakah it may then spread to other aspects of the person's Divine service in matters of Torah as well as secular matters.

Here an eternal lesson emerges for all generations, even after the era of the Temple when the half-shekel is no longer given. This lesson is especially focused when we read the portion of Ki Sissa and we live with the message of the Torah. Every Jew receives a rejuvenating lift on this Shabbos, the head of the Jewish people is uplifted -- for a new aspect is introduced in the Divine service of the Jew that it is done in a manner of a fiery coin with no logical motivation. His soul takes on the enthusiasm and automatic scintillation of fire. This not only can raise the pride of the Jewish people but it must raise them by giving the ransom for charity. This directive applies for all people at all times and in every detail of a Jew's daily life. Since we speak of a lofty approach it cannot be limited to any one time. There must be a constant effort to raise the head of the Jewish people, any stop would indicate an acceptance of the level of the head at that time, and then it would not be "raising" the head.

When tzedakah is given for a specific reason then it is measured in response to the need and call and only at the time of the request. When one gives tzedakah in its pure state it penetrates to all time and conditions and does not wait for a request at home, in the Synagogue, and in the world, wherever and whenever -- in every act, he does tzedakah with purity. He looks for the poor person in order to give him tzedakah and he encourages the needy to be a recipient and he gives a coin of fire to the needy one. He does not radiate a consuming fire, rather a measured "coin" of fire which is naturally drawn down. Everyone, man, woman and child is capable of this Divine service. Even the small boy goes out to find others who need his assistance.

During the month of Adar this is all the more relevant since we have the special mitzvos of charity associated with it. We must search out those who need and who should be stretching out their hands for assistance. This touches on the main theme of Purim, the self-sacrifice of the Jewish people -- and this power permeates all aspects of the person.

It is the time to begin the programs for Purim, to encourage Jews to fulfill the mitzvos of Purim and to see that everyone has whatever they may need on Purim.

May G-d see the good intentions and reward us immediately -- with the true and complete redemption. Then the work of the golden coin will truly be according to G-d's will.

And the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d, with joy and glad hearts.


2

In our study of Rambam today we conclude the Book of Seasons and begin the Book of Women.

It is known that the Rambam placed importance on the order he followed in Mishneh Torah so that we may sometimes derive and deduce halachic rulings based on the order in Rambam.

At the conclusion of the Book of Seasons the Rambam discusses the subject of peace:

Great indeed is peace, forasmuch as the purpose for which the whole of the Law was given is to bring peace upon the world, as it is said, Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. (Prov. 3:17)

(Laws of Megillah and Chanukah 4:14)

Some questions come to mind. Torah is really aloof from the world. Even in its temporal state Torah belongs only to the Jewish people -- "Moshe commanded us the Torah -- it is the heritage of the Congregation of Ya'akov." The Gemara states that our relationship to Torah is similar to a marriage pact which would have prohibited other nations from claiming Torah for themselves. In fact "a gentile who studies Torah would be guilty of capital punishment." (Sanhedrin 59a) If so, how can we say that the Torah was given in order to bring peace to the world?

Another point, the Rambam brings this halachah at the close of the Laws of Megillah and Chanukah in which the non-Jews are viewed in quite a negative way. In the story of Chanukah they were vanquished in war and on Purim their genocidal scheme was foiled and they were punished. It seems inappropriate that at this point in his halachic work the Rambam should speak of the beneficial role of Torah not only for Jews but for non-Jews also!?

Furthermore, how does the double reference of the verse, "Her ways...(ways -- paths, pleasantness -- peace)" apply to the concept of peace in the world?

Although the Torah was given exclusively to the Jewish people there was a change that took place in the world also relative to the gentile nations. Before Mattan Torah there was a restriction imposed from Above: "Those on high shall not descend, and those below shall not ascend." With Mattan Torah, G-dliness came down to the world and the world was forever changed, even for the descendants of Noach. So although these laws of Purim and Chanukah point out the deficiencies of the gentiles, nevertheless, they provide a framework for the Rambam to mention that the world became a more peaceful place, even for non-Jews.

As to the repetitive languages of the verse we quoted, the double terms specifically allude to a state of peace directed at the Jewish nation and an additional state of peace for the whole world.

The "broad roads" (ways) of life allude to the broad highway of Torah which in truth has been allocated to the Jewish people. Of this we are told -- they will be pleasant, while the "paths" allude to the narrower paths through which the Torah affects the world even of the Noachides. Why are the roads pleasant while the paths are peaceful? Because on the Jewish road the inherent nature of the Jewish people brings unity and cooperation, what is needed is the additional pleasantness. On the other paths of the world it is necessary to invoke G-d's power of peace.

Having concluded with the theme of peace the Rambam begins the Book of Women thus:

Before the revelation of the Torah, when a man would encounter a woman in the street, if both consented to marriage, he would bring her into his house and would have intercourse with her in privacy, and thereby she would become his wife.

Upon the revelation of the Torah, the people of Israel were commanded that if a man wishes to marry a woman, he must first acquire her in the presence of witnesses, and only thereafter does she become his wife, as it is said: If any man take a wife and cohabits with her. (Devarim 22:13) (Laws of Marriage 1:1)

And a bit further:

Before the revelation of the Torah, when a man would encounter a woman in the street, if both were willing, he would pay her her fee, have intercourse with her right there at the crossroads, and go his way. Such a woman is called a harlot.

Upon the revelation of the Torah, harlots were forbidden, as it is said: There shall be no harlot of the daughters of Israel. (Devarim 23:18) (Ibid.:4)

To which the following question is raised: Why must we be told what the practice was before the Torah was given. This is a book of halachic law, what difference does it make what took place before?

The explanation for this is that in order to help us appreciate the beauty and value of the laws of the Torah -- in this case the laws of Kiddushin -- it is important for us to compare them with the custom that existed before we had the Torah.

In addition to this elementary reason we may also say that we have here another aspect of bringing peace into the world, in this arena, following the rule that the Torah was given to bring peace to the world.

Just as the Torah which was given to the Jewish people also brought peace in general to the gentile people of the world, so, too, did it bring beneficial results in the area of marriage among the Noachides.

This means that even though the Torah laws of Kiddushin are obviously applicable only to Jews, and the gentiles may still follow the pre-Torah practices, nevertheless when the Noachides observe the practices of the Jewish people, based on Torah, in the matters of marriage, betrothal and morality it will certainly influence their actions for the good, to some degree.

The connection between the Book of Seasons and Women may also include the subject of "peace," both domestic and social.

The laws of betrothal and marriage actually serve as a strong force in the peace between husband and wife, for it is through the Kiddushin process that the bond between man and wife is strengthened.

Look at it this way. At the time when man met woman and took her into his house he was also able to throw her out at will with the same precipitiousness. Clearly no strong force bound them together, to quote a Scripture: "It came to be in a night and perished in a night." (Yona 4:10)

After Mattan Torah, when the Laws of Kiddushin were instituted, one could no longer bring a wife into his house right after meeting her, rather he had to make all the necessary arrangements for a formal betrothal to take place, in the presence of witnesses. This marriage certainly had more permanence and the husband could not eject his wife from his life on a moment's notice, for if a divorce is planned there must be a "get," a bill of divorce. This involves the formal procedures of writing and presenting and accepting the Bill of Divorce.

In a case where the husband may have sound grounds for divorce -- where the wife had acted immorally -- even in such a case he would not be allowed to simply throw her out, because the bond between them would not be automatically severed as a result of such sinful conduct. It would still require the formal process of a properly executed bill of divorce to effect the divorce between the couple.

The reason for this is the strong state of peace and unity that bonds husband and wife. This is what the Rambam was referring to at the close of Book of Seasons when he pointed to the quality of domestic peace and explained, "Even the Divine Name might be erased to make peace between husband and wife." (Ibid.) It is following this statement that he concludes that the Torah was given to bring peace in the world.

The second law mentioned by the Rambam concerning the prohibition of harlotry is also closely related with the theme of peace in the world.

Another important object in prohibiting prostitution is to restrain the removal of a cause for strife; for if the prohibition did not exist, several persons might by chance come to one woman, and would naturally quarrel with each other; they would in many cases kill one another, or they would kill the woman.

(Moreh Nevuchim III, 49)

It follows that the law against harlotry is for the sake of bringing peace in the world. In this way we may see how the introduction of Torah into the world affects the world. When the Jewish people live their lives in accordance with the laws of morality and domestic peace this also has a meaningful effect on the gentile nations.

With this in mind we may draw a lesson from the Rambam section in our general role of improving the moral fibre of the world. Impress on all people the importance of morality, justice and charity, for the Torah must bring peace to the world -- so that even gentiles are uplifted by Torah.

There is another aspect to this discussion. A Jew's function in the world is analogous to the role of man vis-a-vis woman. The Jew must be the provider while the worldly matters are receivers. The Jew's potential is to radiate G-dliness to the world which the world will absorb thereby and become uplifted. This function was on a temporary level before Mattan Torah and on a permanent level after the Torah was given to the world, similar to the permanence of betrothal and the consummate unity of marriage.

It is appropriate to take this opportunity to encourage everyone to study the regular lessons in Rambam, especially in public classes, and wherever the study cycle and completion of each book of Mishneh Torah occurs siyyum celebrations should be held. It is also timely to mention the book that was recently published which chronicled the siyyum celebrations of the past few years as well as included transcripts of essays and siyyum lectures held in the past. This will surely encourage more study of Rambam and more pilpulim to be written.

And may all the study bring to increased unity among the Jewish people. When we say LeChaim and connect it to a siyyum of a section of Rambam it intensifies Jewish unity even more and it will lead to the time of true and eternal life -- with the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach -- speedily and truly in our days.

3

Another point bears some further elucidation.

The Rambam deals with the subject of peace in the context of the law dealing with the oil for the Shabbos lamp and the oil for the Chanukah lamp:

If a poor man needs oil for both a Shabbos lamp and a Chanukah lamp, or oil for a Shabbos lamp and wine for the Sanctification benediction, the Shabbos lamp should have priority, for the sake of peace in the household, seeing that even a Divine Name might be erased to make peace between husband and wife. (Ibid.)

Subsequent to this the Rambam concludes that peace is great and the Torah was given to bring peace to the world. To stress the importance of domestic peace it should have been sufficient to state that the Torah was given to promote peace, why was it necessary to mention that the Divine Name is erased to bring peace? This would seem to be a desecration of G-d's Name! Actually the whole concept seems shocking, why should there be a law in Torah to erase G-d's Name?!

Let us preface: "He teaches His words to Ya'akov and His judgments to Israel." (Tehillim 147:19) Our sages explain: "What He does Himself, He commands the Jewish people to do." (Shmos Rabbah 30:9)

Where do we find some reference or allusion to the concept of sacrifice in a G-dly context which may serve as the prototype for the human practice of martyrdom? The answer may be found in the law of erasing the Name of G-d in order to effect peace in the world between man and wife. This is a form of martyrdom, as it were, for the Holy One, Blessed be He, to have His holy Name erased.

There is also a connection to the point we read this week where Moshe says: "If not, erase me from Your book!" (Shmos 32:32)

The Shechinah spoke from Moshe's mouth and Moshe was clearly unified with G-d and he was constantly one with Torah. So, when he said, "erase me," in an oblique way he was also referring to the Shechinah -- an allusion to G-dly "martyrdom" for the sake of the Jewish people. Here we have an explanation of the context of erasing the Name to bring peace between man and wife.


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