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ויאמר אם נא מצאתי חן בעיניך ... ילך נא ד' בקרבנו ... וסלחת לעונינו ולחטאתנו ונחלתנו.

And he (Moshe) said, “If I have found favor in Your eyes…let my Master go among us…and pardon our iniquity and our sins, and take us as Your own possession.” (34:9)

On the first day of Selichos we plead with Hashem: Pnei na el ha’telaos v’lo l’chataos; “Turn to our sufferings and not to our sins.” We understand that we have failed to keep our commitment to Hashem. He has given us so much and asked only that we maintain our fidelity to Him, that we observe His commandments. We failed because of all that is going on in our lives: troubles, problems, adversity, economic issues, health issues, spousal issues, children issues. Our mind is overburdened with telaos, tzaros, troubles. The Gaon, zl, m’Vilna was an outspoken proponent of aliyah, emigration,…

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ילך נא ד' בקרבנו כי עם קשה ערף הוא

Let my Master go among us; for it is a stiff-necked people. (34:9)

Hashem revealed to Moshe Rabbeinu His Yud Gimmel middos, Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, which signify that Hashem will forgive us out of a sense of Divine compassion. Understandably, we are not always worthy of His absolution. Thus, these Attributes come into play to guarantee that Hashem will never turn His “back” on us. Following the last of the middos, Moshe asks of Hashem, Yeilech na Hashem b’kirbeinu, “Let my Master go among us.” Why does this request follow immediately after the Attributes of Mercy? In his inimitable manner, the Maggid, zl, m’Dubno explains with a parable. A peddler who would…

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ויהי כאשר קרב אל המחנה וירא את העגל ומחלת ויחר אף משה וישלך מידו את הלחת וישבר אתם.

And as he (Moshe) approached the camp, he saw the calf and the dancing; Moshe’s anger blazed, and he threw down the Tablets that were in his hands and smashed them. (32:19)

The last three words of the Torah are: l’einei Bnei Yisrael, “before the eyes of Bnei Yisrael.” This refers to Moshe Rabbeinu’s greatest act of leadership, indeed, his epitaph: He broke the Luchos before the eyes of the Jewish people. Hashem agreed with Moshe’s decision. This is how the Torah ends. It begins with the Creation of the world and ends with (so to speak) the breaking of the Luchos. Clearly this begs elucidation. Does the Torah not present any other closing lesson, any other leadership decision that Moshe made that might deserve greater mention? Furthermore, how was Moshe able…

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זה יתנו כל העבר על הפקדים מחצית השקל השקל הקדש

Everyone passing by to be counted must give this half-shekel based on the shekel of the Holy. (30:13)

Why were the people commanded to give only a half-shekel? It clearly was not due to financial difficulty. It is not as if another half-shekel would have placed anyone on the poverty list. It is almost as if the Torah wants to send a message with the “half” shekel amount. Indeed, the commentators, each in his own inimitable approach, underscore the value of a “half” and how it applies to each Jew – knowing that on his own he is fractioned, he is not whole. He needs his fellow in order for him to become whole. Horav Yoshiahu Pinto, Shlita,…

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ומשה לא ידע כי קרן עור פניו בדברו אתו

Moshe did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant when Hashem had spoken to him. (34:29)

Rashi observes that, until this point, Moshe Rabbeinu’s face had not become radiant – even after having achieved the spiritual heights necessary to receive the Torah. It was only after he received the second Luchos that he earned the merit of koran ohr panav, radiant face. What about the second set of Luchos made such a difference? Horav Mordechai Gifter, zl, explains that the second set of Luchos were obtained in a manner that distinguished them from their predecessor. Following Klal Yisrael’s sin with the Golden Calf, Hashem was prepared to sever His relationship with the nation and rebuild Klal…

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הראני נא את כבודך

Show me please Your glory. (Shemos 33:18)

The cheit ha’eigel, sin of the Golden Calf, was committed forty days after Hashem gave Moshe Rabbeinu the Aseres HaDibros, Ten Commandments, on Har Sinai. It was a sin for which Hashem wanted to destroy the Nation. While only a small group of people actually sinned, the rest of the nation stood by in apathy, either indifferent or unable to do anything to prevent the sin from occurring. As a result, Hashem held all of them in contempt, and He punished them. Hashem revoked His decree to destroy the nation due to Moshe Rabbeinu’s supplication on their behalf. Following Hashem’s…

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ויאמר משה אל אהרן מה עשה לך העם הזה כי הבאת עליו חטאה גדולה

Moshe said to Aharon, “What did these people do to you that you brought a grievous sin upon it?” (32:21)

Rashi interprets Moshe Rabbeinu’s question as, “How much trouble did they put you through before you felt compelled to make the Golden Calf for them?” Ramban disagrees, because such a sin is considered avodah zarah, idol worship, which is one of the three cardinal sins for which the law of yehoreg v’al yaavor, one should be killed rather than transgress, applies. In other words, regardless of the yissurim, painful troubles, to which Aharon might have been subjected, he still did not have license to make the Golden Calf. While it is beyond the scope of this dvar Torah to distinguish…

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זה יתנו כל העובר על הפקודים

This shall they give – everyone who passes through the census. (30:13)

The mitzvah of giving machatzis ha’shekel, a half-shekel, each year applies equally to all Jews (men, twenty years old and up), regardless of their financial circumstances. All Jews are the same with regard to the donation that supports the daily korbanos, communal offerings, and other communal rituals in the Bais HaMikdash. As the Sefer HaChinuch explains the shoresh, root, of this mitzvah, Hashem wanted – for the good and merit of Klal Yisrael – that all Jews be equal with regard to the sacrifices (equal representation) that they brought regularly before Him. Shavim b’mitzvah, equal in the mitzvah, because all…

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וישב העם לאכל ושתו ויקמו לצחק

The people sat to eat and drink and they got up to revel. (32:6)

Rashi explains that the term, l’tzacheik, to revel, implies the three cardinal sins: idolatry; licentiousness; and murder. In addition to their worship of the Golden Calf, Bnei Yisrael committed immoral acts and murdered Chur (nephew of Aharon HaKohen and Moshe Rabbeinu and son of Miriam HaNeviah and Kaleiv ben Yefuneh). He attempted to restrain them and, as a result, he became their first victim. Chur sacrificed his life Al Kiddush Hashem, to sanctify Hashem’s Name. He is the first and only Jew who died Al Kiddush Hashem in the Torah. Surprisingly, there is no overt mention of his mesiras nefesh,…

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ועשית אותו שמן משחת קודש

Of it you shall make oil of sacred anointment (30:25)

The shemen ha’mishchah, oil of anointment, was used exclusively for sacred purposes, such as anointing the Ohel Moed, the Kohen Gadol and the keilim, vessels in the Mishkan/Bais Hamikdash. In examining the shoresh, root, of the mitzvah, the Sefer HaChinuch writes that Hashem wanted us to perform an act ourselves, on the day that we go up to be inaugurated to the honor of performing His holy service l’haros banu gedulah u’shevach, to indicate greatness and praise in us. This is the anointing of the oil. Horav Yitzchok Zilberstein, Shlita, comments that the words, “to indicate greatness and praise in…

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