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Parshas Ki Sisa - Chill!

By Rabbi Zvi Teichman

Posted on 02/21/19

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
Dr. Shapsy Tajerstein, DPM - Podiatry Care.
(410) 788-6633

Aharon finds himself between a rock and a hard place. The people are anxious, wondering whether Moshe will ever return. They begin to seek a possible replacement by, in very short shrift, collecting gold and fashioning a Golden Calf. Chur emphatically protests admonishing them and is summarily dispatched with. Aharon assessing their fear and zeal calls out and merely blurts, חג לה' מחר, “A festival for Hashem tomorrow!” (שמות לב ה)


With these three words alone, their frenzied efforts suddenly comes to a stop.


What powerful message was Aharon conveying in this simple appeal that got them to stifle their impulsive actions at least until the next day?


The venerated sage Rabbi Yechezkel Abramsky quotes the Zohar that points out that Aharon wasn’t deluding them into thinking that he was supporting their efforts to celebrate the Golden Calf, on the contrary Aharon clearly refers to a festival to ‘Hashem’ and expressly not to the calf.


The great Rav explains that often people in a moment of distress become overwhelmed and easily dejected, and hastily react to their eventual chagrin. Aharon was simply assuring them - it will be alright, the future will work out, we will ultimately celebrate Hashem. One must never allow instinctive and mindless reactions to obscure contemplative thought. One must always focus on the ultimate objective.


It is reported that when the great disciple of the Vilna Gaon, Rav Chaim Volozhiner was motivated to open his famed Yeshiva, he came excitedly to his beloved Rebbe for his consent and was declined. Some time later he returned once again to pitch his dream and the Gaon readily agreed. Having expected resistance as he experienced previously, he expressed his surprise in the sudden change of heart. The Gaon explained that whenever someone experiences exuberance in one’s action one must first question whether it is purely motivated. It is not natural to instinctively respond purely, one must always act with consciousness and thoughtful contemplation, filtering out personal motives, interests, and goals that often are not as noble as the cause itself.


Despite Aharon’s sincere and arduous efforts, they failed, going on to worship the calf. The Jerusalem Talmud points out that their failure is encapsulated in the very first word of their response as recorded in the Torah,  וישכימו ממחרת ויעלו עלת... (שם לב ו)  , They arose early the next day and offered up elevation-offerings. (שקלים א א)


Their rush to action was tainted with their personal worry and desire to fix things as soon as possible, forgetting so quickly what Aharon, the night before, had taught - ‘it’s going to be ok’, ‘chill’, we will celebrate with Hashem, there is no need for haste.


The famed Magid, Reb Yankel Galinsky observes how the very verse that speaks of their zeal to serve continues to report that after bringing the elevation-offerings, which are totally consumed upon the altar, ויגישו שלמים, they brought peace-offerings, which are partially consumed by the altar and the rest eaten by those who bring it together with the priests. The verse concludes וישב העם לאכל ושתו ויקמו לצחק, the people sat to eat and drink, and they got up to revel.


He wisely interprets this as revealing their true motivations. What seemed to be a genuine desire to serve purely without any self-service, as evident in the elevation-offering, quickly transforms into some level of self-serving satisfaction as indicated in the peace-offering. In the finale their true intentions manifest itself in their wanton and purposeless self-indulgence to party.


This resolves a dilemma.


On the one hand the Midrash teaches us that in the merit of Aharon’s valiant attempt to save the nation from sin he and his progeny will receive the twenty-four priestly gifts. (ויק"ר י ג)


Elsewhere the Torah states, ובאהרן התאנף ד' מאד (דברים ט כ), Hashem became very angry with Aharon, decreeing that two of his children would die as a consequence of Aharon’s involvement in the sin of the Golden Calf.


Was he justified or not?


Perhaps it was precisely the over exuberance of Aharon’s own children in their sacrificing a ‘foreign fire’ that Aharon was being held accountable for. Aharon had to bear his unique message upon his very soul so that future generations would be careful in not allowing enthusiasm to be soiled by even an iota of self-promotion.


The Holy Arizal teaches that Aharon’s entreaty of חג לה' מחר, a festival for Hashem tomorrow, wasn’t a veiled attempt to deceive them, but was an actual prophecy for all future generations.


The fateful day of the breaking of the Tablets took place on the 17th of Tamuz, a day in history that will be filled with travail and suffering, the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem that lead to the final destruction; the public burning of a Torah during the First Temple; the placing of an idol in the Temple; the discontinuation of the daily Tamid offering.


The prophet foretells that these days of tragedy will be transformed one day into days of festivity and celebration. don’t ever fall into despair and misguided reactions.


Aharon conveyed to all future generations that when the going gets tough don’t react impulsively, trying to desperately gain control of your lives. One must first remember that one day we will rejoice. It will be good. We must allow that reality to temper our dangerous instincts to implement actions that are often misguided or self-serving, with drastic consequences.


Don’t we hesitate before we commit to a learning project or chesed initiative? Yet when it comes to a perceived encroachment of our rights or sensibilities we react so quickly.


When facing difficult challenges in life we often judge the situation too quickly, retreating to behaviors and attitudes that we ultimately regret.


It’s time to chill, to resist the reflexes of despondence and despair, and think carefully before we react, and always remember, there’s going to be a party with Hashem! 


באהבה,


צבי יהודה טייכמאן