Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Part III - Purim and Kaparah

For now, I will write the short version of "Purim and Kaparah":

In a recent blog, I mention the fact that HaShem asked the Jews to give a half-Shekel toward the Mishkan in order to counteract the money that Haman, ym"sh, used to "buy" from Achashverosh the right to annihilate the Jews, chas v'shalom.

Parshas Shekalim, which discusses the half-shekel donation of the Jews is found in this week's Shabbos portion of Ki Sisa. Later in this parsha, in the second aliyah, we read of the infamous instance in which many of the Jewish People were drawn after the Erev Rav to worship the golden calf. HaShem tells Moshe that as a result of the terrible sin of the golden calf, the Jewish People should be destroyed, chas v'shalom. Moshe would then become the progenitor of the Jewish People. HaShem was hinting to Moshe that he should pray for the Jewish People. Instead of accepting the offer to become the progenitor of the Jewish People, Moshe prayed for the Jewish People. HaShem relented from destroying the Jewish People. However, our Rabbis teach us that every time the Jewish People suffer, a part of that suffering is to atone for the national disgrace of worshipping (and not stopping the rest of the nation from worshipping) the golden calf. According to RaSH"I on Shemos 30, 16, the Jews were commanded to give the half-shekel as an atonement for their souls, as the Jewish People were suffering from a plague following the incident of the golden-calf. As an interesting note, the money is referred to as "kesef hakiPURIM" - the "money of atonement".

Next, we have the haftorah and maftir of Parshas Zachor. Amalek, ym"sh, attacked the Jewish People - their purpose was to wipe out the nation that represent HaShem in this world; It is their goal to wipe out the Jewish People and "remove" HaShem from this world. How were they able to attack the Jewish People. Well, we learn that the Jews were encamped in a place called "Refidim" immediately prior to the attack. It is called "Refidim" because "refu yidaihem min HaTorah" - the Jews weakened themselves from the Torah. Amalek then attacked the Jews who were the "stragglers", one of the reasons they are referred to as stragglers, is because the people who were attacked were worshipping idols. Interesting. It is not because the Bnei Yisrael represent HaShem that they are attacked, rather because they represent HaShem do not follow His Ways properly. Like I said before, it is first a part of Bnei Yisrael that "abandons" HaShem, then HaShem "abandons" then.

The next of the four "parshios" is Parshas Parah. We learn that it is the "mother" - the red heifer - that comes to clean up the mess of the "child" - the golden calf. So, this parsha also comes and shows us that HaShem, in His Kindness, has given us a way to help atone for the sin of the golden calf.

The last of the four parshios is known as "Parshas HaChodesh" is read on the Shabbos immediately preceding Rosh Chodesh Nissan. On this parsha we read of the Jewish People's first mitzvah, the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh. The maftir goes on to discuss how the Egyptian firstborns would be killed; The Egyptians being punished for their terrible treatment of the Jewish People.

So we have a cycle here sin to atonement. The Jewish People sin by straying away from HaShem, whether it be by worshipping idolatry, or throwing off the Yoke of Heaven completely, or even disregarding one mitzvah as not being correct or not being commanded to do that mitzvah from HaShem. The Jewish People are punished to atone for their sin and to get them back to serve HaShem, until the point of Redemption, where HaShem Takes us out of our suffering, as He did in Mitzraim. Parshas HaChodesh, immediately preceding Nissan, the month of Redemption, discusses the situation of the Jewish People immediately prior to Redemption. How appropriate, moving away from our sins to Redemption.

And Purim - That is smack in the middle of the parshios. I would like to write more about this in the near future, however, to summarize in a couple sentences, we learn a lot from Purim. Especially we learn about the situation of the Jewish People, between the First and the Second Batei Mikdashos. The Jewish People had sinned and had "abandoned" HaShem. As a result, HaShem "abandoned" us by destroying the First Beis HaMikdash and Hiding His Presence. Nevertheless, Esther and Mordechai knew that, though HaShem's Presence was as obvious as it had been in the past, they still had to stand up for the Jewish People, bring about national teshuvah and the salvation of the Jews from what seemed like "imminent destruction". Purim is a time when the Jewish People moved from a situation of being distanced from HaShem to HaShem's salvation. Shortly thereafter, the Second Beis HaMikdash was built. So too should we merit in our days to have the Salvation that the Jewish People (and the world for that matter) have been waiting for for thousands of years. Then we will see HaShem's Presence as much more evident in this world. May we all merit that through teshuva, we bring Jewish History full-circle and see our Final Redemption Speedily in Our Days! Happy Shushan Purim!


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