This week’s action packed parshah relates the laws on the ‘Half shekel’ coin that the Jews donated to the Tabernacle. It was to be made of silver, these coins were given by rich and poor a like, everyone had to give exactly half a shekel, no more and no less. This coin was to be used to count the number of Jewish people alive. (Shemot 30:13)
There are several reasons why it had to be half a shekel; as we see later on Moshe will smash the Tablets in to 2 pieces, so in atonement for that, they had to donate a ‘split’ coin. Another reason for it was that when two half shekels are put together it turns to a whole shekel, this teaches us that unity and oneness is important. G-d’s presence rests among us when the Jews are united together, one nation one heart!
Next, the parshah relates the laws on further components of the Tabernacle, firstly, the ‘Kiyor’ a copper jug of water, which the Kohanim would wash their hands and feet with prior to their services in the Tabernacle, in order to sanctify themselves (Shemot 30:17/21).
The Parshah relates the laws of the ‘Anointment Oil’ that would be used to anoint different parts of the Tabernacle and also used in anointing future Kohen Gadol’s and Jewish Kings (Shemot 30:22/33). We will see in parshat Shmini, how Aharon was anointed with oil on his forehead.
The Parshah then relates the laws on the incense and spices that were to be used in the Golden alter (Shemot 30:34/38), this was one of Hashems most favourite sacrificial services.
Yet again, the Torah then goes on to relate the importance of keeping Shabbat, by guarding it and sanctifying it (Shemot 31:12/17). The Gemara in Shabbat 10a states that Shabbat is the 'wonderful gift' that Hashem gave to the Jewish people!
The main topic on the parshah this week is the sin of the Golden Calf. Moshe had gone up the heavenly realms (Shemot 24:18) to receive the tablets and learn the whole Torah by G-d. The Jews miscalculated the time when Moshe was meant to descend down from the mountain. As Moshe didn’t reappear after 40 days, the people panicked that he was not coming back, in fact the Jews miscalculated the 40 days, thinking he was coming back on the 16th of Tammuz while in reality he was to come back on the 17th of Tammuz (Shabbat 89 Rashi) and decided to make a Golden Calf. A man of the name, Chur, protested and stuck up for Hashem’s honor, he stressed how much of a sin it would be to make it (Sanhedrin 7), however they disgracefully murdered him. Then Aharon, believing that Moshe was going to come down very quickly went a long with the idea, in a delayed fashion, convinced that Moshe would come down before the Calf was made. Also Aharon realized his life was at stake if he didn’t go along with it.
With Moshe not appearing, the Jews threw gold in to a fire and a Golden Calf emerged from the flame (Shemot 32:4). To add insult to injury, the Jews danced around it with Joy which made matters much worse, G-d was very angry, not just that they instituted this; they derived much pleasure while doing so. Moshe and Joshua descended down the mountain and witnessed what was going on, Moshe then smashed the Tablets (Shemot 32:19), realizing how he could not give over to the Jews the precious Torah, while they are committing terrible sins of idolatry at the time (Shabbat 87a).
Moshe went back up on Mount Sinai and begged Hashem for forgiveness. G-d stated that he was ready to destroy all the Jews and start fresh again with Moshe, making him the forefather of a new great generation (Shemot 32:10). However Moshe begged and begged and Hashem forgave (Shemot 32:11/14), however punishment was still in store for those who took part and failed to protest about the making of the Calf.
Moshe asked G-d, ‘why do many of the righteous suffer in this world?' And 'Why do the some of the wicked prosper (Berachot 7a)?’ The righteous Gentile, Iyov, suffered greatly losing his children, livestock, wealth and suffered with terrible ‘boils’ all over his body (Iyov 2:7), however Hashem comforted him and multiplied everything he had and owned after he accepted, realized and understood why all this happened (Iyov 42:10).
Hashem then informed Moshe of his 13 attributes of Mercy and then the parshah concludes relating how Moshe came down after his third spell, spending 40 days and 40 nights up in the heavenly realms learning Torah (Shemot 34:28). He came down with a strong glow on his face (Shemot 34:29), measuring his holy stature at the time.
The Natural Haftorah for this weeks reading is from chapter 18 of the book of Kings, where the prophet Eliyahu appears before King Achav to give him a warning.
This Dvar Torah is dedicted in the Zechut (merit) and memory of Yisrael Leib Ben Yehuda HaLevi.
Hope you all have a fantastic Shabbat, Shabbat Shalom.