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Ki Tisa 5769

Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! I once had the pleasure of attending a wedding in Jerusalem. It is the custom in Jerusalem for poor people to collect tzedakah (charity) at weddings. Personally, I find this uplifting for two reasons: (1) there are many opportunities to give tzedakah, and (2) one can feel like a Rothschild by giving a Shekel (worth about a quarter). Most people give half a Shekel or less (at the time of this wedding).

I also had the pleasure of sitting next to an old friend who had moved to Jerusalem. While he is a genuine philanthropist and gives generously to important causes, his attitude to the continuous flow of requests was far different than mine. Every time someone approached, he pulled inward, put up a shield and did his best to be invisible. I'd say he felt that he was under attack, under a barrage of outstretched hands.

Being the perpetual do-gooder that I am, I decided to help my friend get more joy out of life by appreciating the opportunity before him. "You know, this is fantastic! In Miami I just don't feel good unless I give $18. Here I can make people happy with the equivalent of a quarter!"

"Yes," says my friend, "but you don't know if they are for real! I have it on good authority that many of them are frauds!"

Undaunted, I responded, "Maybe so, but you rarely know for sure. However, the Almighty deals with us measure for measure. Perhaps if we give when someone else doesn't really need, the Almighty will give us though we don't need. While one must generally verify that the tzedakah recipient is legitimate to fulfill the commandment of giving a tithe of one's income, one can look upon the few coins as a kindness to another human being even if he doesn't qualify as tithe-recipients. And the small amount one gives does not have to come from one's tithe accounting. Personally, each year I budget several hundred dollars in my 'rip off' account --for the plumbers, electricians, car repairmen, storekeepers and others who take unfair advantage of me. I figure the financial cost is far worth the peace of mind and mental health of not getting physically and emotionally distressed over the losses."

I then continued, "When I first came to yeshiva (a Torah academy of higher learning) at the age of 22, one of the first questions I asked my Rebbie (teacher) was 'If I have $100 to give, should I give it to one individual where I can make an impact or $1 to 100 people?' My rebbie wisely replied, 'Give $1 to each of 100 people. Then when the 101st person asks you for help, you will have compassion for him and feel the pain of not being able to help another human being. If you give $100 to one person, then every time each of the next 99 people will ask for your help, you will feel bombarded. You will feel that you are being unfairly treated. You will ask yourself 'Why can't they realize what a generous and righteous man I am? Don't they know that I really helped one person?' You will harden yourself and always be on the defensive.' It's better to have the joy of giving, of saying a kind word to another human being and becoming a more compassionate person!"

A few moments later another poor person made his way around our table with his hand outstretched. When he came to my friend, my friend looked up, smiled and asked if the person could give him change for 10 shekels so that he could give to others as well. The Sages tell us that one can recognize a Jew through three character traits. A Jew is merciful, morally sensitive and does kindness. And that well describes my friend!

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Torah Portion of the Week
Ki Tisa

The Torah portion includes: instructions for taking a census (by each person donating a half shekel); instructions to make the Washstand, Anointing Oil, and The Incense for the Mishkan, the Portable Sanctuary; appointing Betzalel and Oholiab to head up the architects and craftsmen for the Mishkan; a special commandment forbidding the building of the Mishkan on Shabbat (people might have thought that they would be allowed to violate the Shabbat to do a mitzvah ...).

The Torah portion continues with the infamous story of the Golden Calf. The people wrongly calculated that Moses was late in coming down from Mt. Sinai and the people were already seeking a replacement for him by making the Golden Calf (there is a big lesson in patience for us here). Moses sees them dancing around the calf and in anger breaks the Two Tablets; he then punishes the 3,000 wrongdoers (less than .1% of the 3 million people), pleads to God not to wipe out the people, requests to see the Divine Glory, and receives the second set of Tablets of the Ten Commandments.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states,

"Six days you shall work and on the seventh day, it should be a complete rest sacred to the Almighty" (Exodus 31:15)

What does it mean "a complete rest"?

Rashi, the great commentator, tells us that rest on Shabbat should be a permanent rest and not merely a temporary rest. Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, the former Rosh Hayeshiva (Dean) of the Mir Yeshiva, clarifies that a temporary rest means that a person has not really changed his inner traits, but he merely controls them on Shabbat. He still has a bad temper and has a tendency to engage in quarrels, but because of the elevation of Shabbat, he has the self-discipline not to manifest these traits. The ultimate in Shabbat observance is that a person should uproot those negative traits which are contradictory to peace of mind on Shabbat. One needs to uproot such traits as anger and the tendency to quarrel with others. Only then is your rest on Shabbat a complete rest.

It is not sufficient for a person just to refrain from the formal categories of creative acts on Shabbat. Shabbat is the gift of peace of mind. This is not considered righteousness, but an essential aspect of Shabbat. Only by being a master over your negative emotions can you have true peace of mind -- and elevate yourself spiritually!

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If you wear blinders,
even shedding light on
the subject won't help

In Memory of

Peshe Tzirel Zuckerman

With love,

Sol & Anna Zuckerman

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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Copyright Rabbi Kalman Packouz 2008

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