Parashas Ki Sissa / Haftaras Parah

We present here a piece that relates both to this week’s Torah portion and to this week’s special haftarah, haftaras Parah.
The Torah portion relates the episode of the golden calf. The Kuzari (part I, par. 97) explains that the Jews did not set up the calf as an idol to worship instead of Hashem, but rather as a means of connecting with Hashem – a replacement for Moshe, whom they thought had died. Still, the making of the calf was a grievous sin, for it was a form of service that Hashem had not mandated, and it closely resembled idolatry. We can say that Jewish People meant well, but the evil inclination distorted their judgment. Thus, the Midrash comments (Shemos Rabbah 41:7, end):
Said the Holy One Blessed Be He to Moshe: “Now, when they have the evil inclination within them, they engage in idolatry, but in the end of days I will uproot the evil inclination from within them and give them a heart of flesh.” Thus it is written (Yechezkel 36:26, from the haftarah): “I shall remove the heart of stone from your flesh, and give them a heart of flesh.”
The Maggid asks: What is the scope of this spiritual repair?
The Maggid answers with an analogy to a doctor who is called in to restore someone to health. If the person is already dead when the doctor comes, then of course there is no hope. But if the person is still alive, though he may be gravely ill, he can yet be cured. Similarly, if a person is overtaken by the evil inclination and totally sunken in false ways, his heart cannot be restored. But if a person retains an element of true spirituality, Hashem will ultimately bring him to a state of spiritual vigor, free of the scourge of the evil inclination.
What is the key sign that a person is still spiritually alive? The sign is that, at some level, he realizes he is spiritually sick and seeks to be cured. A person who is totally enslaved by the evil inclination does not even seek release from it. On the contrary, he is brainwashed to the point where he enjoys being controlled by the evil inclination. Thus it was with the assembled throng that went along with the Jewish People in the wilderness (Bamidbar 11:3): the throng “craved a craving.” They welcomed the pull of desire; they even pined for it. The Jewish People, on the other hand, wished to be free of the evil inclination. This wish, the Maggid says, is the reason why the Jewish People accepted the Torah so readily, without worrying about how hard it would be to observe its laws. They knew that the Torah was the only ticket to freedom from the evil inclination, and they therefore grabbed it right away. If we cling to the Torah, and keep the evil inclination from overtaking us, in due time Hashem will uproot the evil inclination from us, and give us a heart of flesh.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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