Shabbos Parashas Ki Sissa

On the parashah
This week’s parashah recounts the sin of the golden calf. Accordingly, the Midrash on the parashah discusses the evil inclination. The Midrash expounds (Shemos Rabbah 41:7, end):
Said the Holy One Blessed Be He to Moshe: “At present, 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): “I shall remove the heart of stone from your flesh, and give you a heart of flesh.”
In explaining the Midrash, the Maggid presents a lengthy discourse. We previously presented a synopsis of one segment of this discourse. We now expand on a portion of it.
The Maggid takes another Midrash as his starting point. The Jewish People declare (Shir HaShirim 1:5): “I am blackened, yet beautiful, O daughters of Yerushalayim – [I am] like the tents of Kedar, [yet also] like the curtains of Shlomo.” The Midrash expounds (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:38):
Just as Shlomo’s curtains get soiled and are laundered, and then get soiled and are laundered again, so too it is with the People of Yisrael. Although they soil themselves with sin throughout the year, Yom Kippur comes and atones for them.
The Maggid explains as follows. The primary basis for our faith that Hashem will cleanse our souls in the end of days is not the belief that we will earn this cleansing, but rather our reliance on Hashem’s compassion and kindness. Because of these attributes, we understand that ultimately Hashem will take pity on us and, as an act of free grace, will purify and sanctify us. In the words of Devarim 30:6, He will circumcise our hearts, meaning that He will purge from within us the defilement of the evil inclination. Now, when the people who are deeply entrenched in idolatry, in one form or another, see Hashem granting us this cleansing, they might ask Hashem to do for them the same kindness. But it will not be possible to do so.
The difference between a person who, while beleaguered by his evil inclination, has a connection to Hashem and His law and a person who is deeply entrenched in idolatry is like the difference between a sick person and a dead person. A person may be extremely sick, even close to death, but so long as he is still alive it is possible for a doctor to cure him and restore him to his original state of health. But if a person is dead, there is no way to restore him – he is like an inert stone. Similarly, if a person is in essence a good person – if he has a connection to Hashem and His law, with the power of discernment which that entails – then even though he is infected with the evil inclination and thereby prone to sin, Hashem can cure him and restore him to his natural state of goodness. Thus, Hoshea declares in Hashem’s Name (Hoshea 14:5): “I shall cure them of their waywardness.” But if a person’s basic essence is evil, it is impossible to bring him to a state of true goodness.
The Midrash likens the Jewish People to curtains that get soiled and are laundered. If a cloth is itself black, laundering will not remove the blackness. But if a cloth is itself white, then even if it gets soiled with black stains, one can launder it and restore it to its original whiteness. In this vein, Yechezkel declares in Hashem’s Name (Yechezkel 36:25-26): “I shalll sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean …. I shall remove the heart of stone from your flesh, and give you a heart of flesh.”
Prologue to Sefer HaMiddos, Part 3
Hoshea exhorts (Hoshea 14:2): “Return, Yisrael, up to (עד) Hashem your God.” Note that Hoshea does not tell us to return to Hashem (לה' or אל ה'), but rather to return up to (עד) Hashem. Hoshea is teaching us that when we seek to repent, to direct our actions to good and mend our ways, we should divide the task into stages. Thus, Yeshayah exorts in Hashem’s Name (Yeshayah 1:15):
“Cleanse yourselves, purify yourselves – remove the evil of your deeds from before My eyes, cease turning to evil. Learn to do good and seek justice; vindicate the victim, render justice to the orphan, take up the grievance of the widow. Come now, let us reason together,” says Hashem, “if your sins are like scarlet they will become white as snow; if they have become red as crimson, they will become [white] as wool.
A person must first adjust his behavior so that it is in line with the type of conduct befiting a member of the human race. He must act as dictated by uprightness and honest exercise of his intellect. Afterward he can take the next step and adorn himself with the role of being a holy minister to Hashem. Hashem exhorts (Vayikra 19:2): “Be holy, for I, Hashem your God, am holy.” On account of Hashem’s being our God and our being His people, it is fitting that we serve our holy God and make ourselves holy. But our role as ministers to Hashem is not what makes it incumbent on us not to steal, extort, or commit other crimes of this nature – this would be incumbent on us even if were not ministers to Hashem, on account of our being men and women rather than animals. Thus, Yeshayah tells us first to cleanse ourseves by learning to do good and seeking justice, and only afterward tells us to avoid sinning by being derelict in our duty to serve Hashem.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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