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Posted on June 7, 2002 (5762) By Shlomo Katz | Series: | Level:

Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz

Ki Tissa

Volume XVI, No. 21
18 Adar 5762
March 2, 2002

Today’s Learning:
Shevuot 2:1-2
Orach Chaim 591:4-6
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Bava Metzia 100
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Terumot 37

In this week’s parashah we read of the sin of the Golden Calf, of Hashem’s stated intention to wipe-out Bnei Yisrael (G-d forbid), and of Moshe’s prayer that G-d forgive Bnei Yisrael. It was at this time that Hashem taught Moshe the “13 Middot Shel Rachamim” / “The Thirteen Attributes of Mercy,” and told Moshe that, for all time, Bnei Yisrael should follow the formula of the Thirteen Attributes to achieve forgiveness.

R’ Y. Hamburger shlita (a talmid chacham in Israel) notes that this prayer is different from all other prayers, which begin with praise of Hashem, but then go on to make specific requests. In contrast, the Thirteen Attributes consist solely of praise of Hashem. This is a prayer that does not say what we are asking for!

R’ Hamburger writes that this prayer can be understood in light of Ralbag’s explanation of the mechanics of prayer: One cannot achieve through prayer anything that Hashem is not theoretically willing to do anyway. This is the meaning of the verse in our parashah (33:19), “I will give to whom I will give, and I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” In short, Hashem is unchanging, but prayer changes the one who prays, thus making him a worthy recipient of Hashem’s gifts, in general, and that which he is now seeking, in particular. When a person prays, he elevates himself, and thereby becomes worthy of Hashem’s close attention. (See Ralbag, Peirush Al Ha’Torah, p. 115b “Hato’elet Hashlishi.”)

R’ Hamburger continues: The very reason for man’s creation is so that he may study Hashem’s ways and become close to Him. As Ralbag notes, one who does so is worthy of Hashem’s intervention in his life. And, what better way is there to achieve understanding of Hashem than by reciting and meditating upon His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy? They are, after all, Hashem’s answer to Moshe’s request (in our parashah, 33:13), “Show me Your ways, and I will know You.” Accordingly, one who perfects this prayer will have his needs fulfilled, even if his prayer does not specify those needs. (Sha’arei Rachamim)


“Every man shall give Hashem an atonement for his soul . . . This shall they give — everyone who passes through the census — a half shekel of the sacred shekel . . .” (30:12- 13)

Our Sages say that the half shekel was given as an atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf. Why specifically a half shekel? R’ Chaim Kanievsky shlita (a leading Torah scholar in Bnei Brak; son of the “Steipler Gaon”) explains:

The Torah says about the making of the Golden Calf (Shmot 32:3), “The entire people removed the gold rings that were in their ears.” An earing weighed a “beka” as we read (Bereishit 24:22), “The man [Eliezer] took a golden ring, its weight was a beka . . .” How much is a beka? The Torah tells us (Shmot 38:26), “A beka for every head, a half-shekel in the sacred shekel.”

Thus, since the donations that were given for the Golden Calf weighed a half shekel, the atonement also was a half shekel.

[Ed. note: The Torah does not state that the jewelry that Eliezer gave Rivka had the same weight as the jewelry that Jewish women wore centuries later. Nevertheless, there must be a reason why the Torah told us the weight of Rivka’s jewelry. Indeed, Rashi foreshadowed R’ Kanievsky’s explanation when he commented on the verse describing Rivka’s jewelry (Bereishit 24:22), “Beka – a symbol of the shekels of the Israelites, of which it is said, `A beka a head’.”] (Ta’ama D’kra)


“The people saw that Moshe had delayed in descending the mountain, and the people gathered around Aharon and said to him, `Rise up, make for us gods that will go before us, for this man Moshe who brought us up from the land of Egypt — we do not know what became of him!'” (32:1)

R’ Yaakov Charlap z”l (see page 4) explains how Bnei Yisrael came to commit the terrible sin of trying to replace Moshe Rabbeinu. He writes: Even before Moshe ascended to Har Sinai, Bnei Yisrael saw him as half man and half angel. Then he was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights, not eating and not drinking. Bnei Yisrael said, “We can not relate to a leader who has become super-human, who has become an angel.” This is the meaning of their statement: “For this man Moshe — we do not know what became of him!” (Mei Marom: Nimukei Mikraot)


“Aharon said to them, `Parku / Cast off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, sons, and daughters, and bring them to me’.” (32:2)

Why did Aharon say “Parku / cast off” instead of “Hordeedu / remove” (as in Shmot 33:6, where Hashem says, “Horaid / remove your jewelry”? R’ David ben Amram z”l (Aden, Yemen; 14th century) explains that Aharon was hinting to them that they had “cast off” the yoke of Heaven (“parku ohl”). He said, “It is usual that a person who hears a beautiful tune is unable to get the melody out of his head even as much as forty days later. Yet you said `Na’aseh ve’nishmah’ only forty days ago, and now you have thrown off G-d’s yoke!” (Midrash Ha’gadol)


Thirty Days Before Pesach . . .

“I might think that the obligation to discuss the Exodus commences with the first day of the month of Nissan.” (The Pesach Haggadah)

Why might I think this? R’ Avraham ben Hagra z”l (died 1808; son of the Vilna Gaon) explains: The ancient Egyptians worshiped the sheep, and to counter this fallacious belief, Bnei Yisrael were commanded to slaughter sheep for the Korban Pesach. Not coincidentally, the sheep (Aries) is the astrological sign for the month of Nissan. Therefore, I might think that the time to speak of the Exodus and of Hashem’s mastery over all other forces begins on Rosh Chodesh, when the sign of the sheep first ascends.

For the same reason, the Haggadah states that I might think the time to discuss the Exodus is on the afternoon of Erev Pesach. That is the time when the Korban Pesach was slaughtered. (Geulat Avraham)


“It is this that has stood by our fathers and us.” (The Pesach Haggadah)

When we recite these words during the Seder, it is customary to cover the matzah and to lift the cup of wine. Why? Is not the matzah a mitzvah de’oraita / a Torah-ordained mitzvah, while the Four Cups are only a rabbinically-ordained mitzvah? Why do we seem to attribute more importance to the rabbinic mitzvah than to the Torah mitzvah?

R’ Menachem Mendel Kalish z”l (1819-1868; Rebbe of Vorka, Poland) explained: What is it that has held the Jewish people together and has stood us in good stead throughout the millennia of exile and persecution? It is the Torah scholars of each generation who have ensured the continuity of halachah and mitzvah-observance, and it is our adherence to their words that has preserved us as a nation. This is why we point out a rabbinic mitzvah and say, “It is this that has stood by our fathers and us.”

When R’ Aharon Rokeach of Bilgorai z”l (died 1948; father of the current Belzer Rebbe) repeated R’ Kalish’s explanation to his father, the Belzer Rebbe, R’ Yissochor Dov Rokeach z”l (1854- 1926), the latter ordered that it be written down immediately. When he was reminded that it was chol ha’moed, when writing should be avoided if possible, R’ Yissochor Dov responded that such a thought is too important to forget. It must be written down, even on chol ha’moed. (Quoted in Mi’saviv La’shulchan No. 140)


R’ Yechiel Michel Charlap z”l

R’ Charlap was born in Yerushalayim on the second day of Rosh Hashanah 5660 / 1899. He was the oldest son of R’ Yaakov Moshe and Pesha Charlap, and his father was his first teacher. (The elder R’ Charlap was destined to become renowned as rabbi of Yerushalayim’s Sha’arei Chessed neighborhood and as Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Merkaz Harav.)

Young Yechiel Michel studied in yeshivot Etz Chaim and Torat Chaim in Yerushalayim. At age 16, he joined a select group of young men who studied under R’ Yitzchak Yerucham Diskin, son of R’ Yehoshua Leib Diskin. Before long, R’ Yechiel Michel was delivering a lecture in the yeshiva and holding private study sessions with R’ Diskin. R’ Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook also set aside time to study privately with the young R’ Charlap.

In 1921, R’ Charlap traveled to New York to study at Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan. At the same time, he served as rabbi of Congregation Anshei Volozhin. Later, he obtained a rabbinic post in Canton, Ohio and, still later, in Omaha, Nebraska. In both places, he worked to increase the level of Torah study, especially among the youth. He also became a popular speaker.

In 1926, R’ Charlap became rabbi of the Bronx Jewish Center, then the largest congregation in that borough of New York. During the first half of R’ Charlap’s 48-year tenure, as many as 1,000 people davened at the Jewish Center on a regular basis, 700 came to hear R’ Charlap speak every Shabbat afternoon, and 200 attended his Talmud shiur. The Talmud Torah which was under R’ Charlap’s patronage served 800 children and was the largest Jewish school in New York.

R’ Charlap was involved in numerous Jewish organizations, and was among the founders of the OU’s Kashruth Division. In his last years, he delivered a weekly parashat ha’shavuah lesson on a New York radio station.

In 1951, after his father’s death, R’ Charlap was elected rabbi of Yerushalayim’s Sha’arei Chessed and Rechaviah neighborhoods, but he declined the positions. Instead, he remained at the Bronx Jewish Center until his death on 12 Cheshvan 5735 / 1974. He was buried on Har Ha’zeitim.

R’ Charlap’s son, R’ Zevulun, is a rabbi in the Bronx and a rosh yeshiva at Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan. He has published many of his father’s works.

Sponsored by
the Yablok family on the yahrzeit of father and grandfather Shmuel Eliezer ben Osher Zev Yablok a”h

The Rutstein family in memory of Dr. Leonard Schlossberg

Copyright © 2002 by Shlomo Katz and Project Genesis, Inc.

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