Parshas Ki Sisa
The Vulnerabilty of Emotional Doubt
With respect to Chanukah it is clear that the weekly Torah readings are in
sync with the holiday. The story of Yosef and his brothers is one of the
central themes of Chanukah, and there are many hints to Chanukah in the
Not so Purim. With respect to Purim, it seems as if the parshios have little
to do with the time of year, so to give them some relevance, we change the
Maftir to another section of Torah referred to as the ArbaParshios—the Four
Sections—whose themes are connected to this time of year.
Or so it may seem. The reality is that these parshios have everything to do
with Purim. For example, the four areas of the Mishkan correspond to the
four mitzvos of Purim, and the journey from outside the Tent of Meeting to
the Holy of Holies is representative of the journey from themitzvah of
Megillah to the Mishteh—drinking feast —and what it is supposed to help us
Just as significant is the fact that the third of the four special
readings—Parah—can end up on the same Shabbos that we read about the golden
calf. It’s like getting sick and going to the medicine cabinet and finding
exactly the medicine you need to take to get better: the Red Heifer is the
cure for the golden calf.
Years back I pointed out something interesting (it was to me) to do with the
entire episode of the golden calf, which in Hebrew is eigel hazavah, whose
gematrios—numerical values—are 103 (Ayin-Gimmel-Lamed) and 19
(Heh-Zayin-Heh-Bais) respectively. Coincidentally (though we don’t believe
in coincidences), the Twin Towers mysteriously collapsed in 103 minutes
after 19 terrorists (the 20th just happened not to make it on time), flew
two commercial jets into their sides on September 11, 2001.
At the time, the point I was making was part of a much larger presentation
that eventually became my book, The Equation of Life: Making Your Life and
History Add Up, which you can still buy on line (www.thirtysix.org).
Basically, the destruction of the two towers, which, incredibly, were in the
shape of an eleven, could be seen as a message of the direction history was
going at that time, and what it meant for the Jewish people.
I still hold by that message, but I would like to add to it at this time.
Why now, so many years after the world has left behind the tragedy?Because,
a friend of mind just sent me a link to a presentation called 9/11: Experts
Speak Out that demands that we re-examine and re-think our understanding of
the events of that time.
Well, not me. I have always held that the destruction of the buildings was
not the result of the planes themselves, but the result of a controlled
implosion. As an architect student who, during my time in university, went
on a field trip to New York that included a tour of the World Trade Center,
I knew from the start that airplanes could not bring those buildings down,
and certainly not that fast. We were told that explicitly by the guide, and
the plans of the building made that clear.
Who was responsible for the implosion? I have my theories, as do many other
conspiracy theory advocates, especially given what happened immediately
after the attack. However, that is not my focus at this time, after watching
the presentation just mentioned, which was produced and presented by some of
the top architects, engineers, and chemists in the States.
Basically, they confirmed what has always been known, and they are now
demanding new answers for what occurred on 9/11. The science does not add
up, meaning that the forensics points away from the official government
explanation as to why the buildings collapsed so totally and so quickly, and
in the direction of a man-made massive explosion instead. What really
happened on 9/11, they are asking, and suggesting other Americans ask as well.
What does all of this have to do with this week’s parshah and ParashasParah?
This time, it has to do with the reaction of the people to the video
presentation, such as one mentioned by an expert regarding her brother’s
reaction to watching it. She was saying, “Don’t mess with my comfort, don’t
mess with my life, etc.” or something to that effect, and quite common
amongst millions upon millions of people around the world.
I particularly enjoyed the picture of the United States being turned upside
down, an important Purim issue, representative of reality if, as the person
was saying, his own government was responsible for the attack and cover-up.
The implications of such a truth would be staggering, not just for American
citizens, but for all citizens around the world.
However, the bigger question might not be, “How can a government justify and
carry out such a horrific and criminal act on its own people?” which can
easily be answered (though not necessarily easily believed). The larger
question is, “How can so many people be confronted with so many indisputable
facts that the jetliners did not bring those three towers down (including
Building Seven, which wasn’t even hit by a plane), and not want to know what
How can their desire for a pleasant life override their desire to know the
truth about it?
It is this very question that links the video and people’s reaction to it to
the events in this week’s parshah, its special Maftir, and the story of Purim.
It is one of the most bizarre events of history. That people acted
licentiously is nothing new. That people threw off the yoke of Heaven just
after putting it on is also not so unusual, especially if the religious
change came quickly. However, that both could happen at the base of Mt.
Sinai, within 40 days of actually hearing God Himself speak is already bizarre.
Granted, the Erev Rav—Mixed Multitude—was the main instigator of the sin,
and the vast majority of Jews did not get involved, just under three
thousand Jews (close to the number of people who died in the Twin Towers
attack), who were later executed by Moshe Rabbeinu and the Tribe of Levi for
their involvement. However, the rest of the nation was still held
responsible for at least not stopping it from happening and, as Rashi points
out, we’re still paying for that each time we are punished for something else.
When it comes to animal minds, if there is a threat of danger, the animal
will not let his guard down until it knows, or at least thinks, that the
danger is gone. He is not capable of being presented with the potential for
danger and ignoring it. An animal can be starving, almost to death, and it
will still pass up some food if taking the food presents a clear and present
This is because animals do not have emotions. But humans do, and they are
capable of generating enough excitement that the warnings of the brain can
be drowned out, at least temporarily. They can push people to create heinous
sins and, as a result, bring the world to the threshold of terrible danger
before pushing mankind over it.
The Erev Rav was not born yesterday. They knew, as does every good marketing
firm, that in order to get people to overcome the wisdom of their minds they
have to instigate the emotions to make more noise than the intellect does.
They had to create a scenario that would talk to the emotions, excite them,
make them even scream out in ecstasy just long enough to sin before people
sober up to what they have actually done.
For them, that was the golden calf, which represented unbridled emotions, or
what many call passions. However, the Red Heifer was neither young nor gold.
It is grown up, and red, as in the color of blood, as in the symbol of
mortality. It is the sobering answering to the drunken impact of the gold calf.
Recently I became involved in discussion with someone I consider to be
highly intelligent regarding the evidence for the planned destructive of the
World Trade Center. He neither had watched the video nor had read anything
about the people behind it, but, nonetheless, he was prepared to discount it
completely. Only after some pushing did he agree to screen the material.
Amazingly, it was clear to anyone else listening in that he had not rejected
the information based upon fact. Rather, he had been incredulous, unable to
believe that the buildings had been destroyed and almost 3,000 people had
died because of “friendly fire.” Within 20 seconds, I showed why
intellectually, that was not a question, emotionally, he still had doubt,
Nothing makes a person, and society, more vulnerable than emotional doubt.
Text Copyright © 2013 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.