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Why Can't They Just Get Over It?
And a <3 Minute D'var Torah on Parshas Ki Sisa 5776
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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2/25/16

Why Can't They Just Get Over It?

By: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

Here is a link to "Ending Child Abuse" that I recorded for Eli Talks in Chicago several months ago, and just recently released.

ELI Talks is modeled after TED Talks, where thoughtful leaders are invited to deliver twelve-minute presentations sans notes to live audiences as a public service. ELI Talks, though, are designed so that the presenters are to make their case based on Torah sources.

My presentation was about putting an end to the scourge of child abuse by:

  • Cutting through the cognitive dissonance that lulls us into the incorrect notion that our community is somehow exempt from the problems that face the general population
  • Educating our parents, educators and children about effective, research-based child safety/abuse prevention
  • Believing abuse victims when they come forward and correcting the imbalance of power between the abuser and the abused by standing with and supporting the victims
  • What I call, "Looking for the Answer Key," namely looking past the thrashing of kids who are acting out, looking for the reasons or trauma that may be causing their anti-social behavior.

Recording this talk was a wonderful learning experience and I am deeply grateful to Miriam Brosseau, Director of ELI Talks, and to Robin Carus, the speaking coach provided by ELI Talks. I also would like to express my gratitude to Yossi Prager/AVICHAI Foundation and to Harlene Appelman/Covenant Foundation for their grants that make ELI Talks possible.

On a personal note, my mother a"h took a turn for the worse just as I was scheduled to deliver this presentation last November. I dedicated the talk in her memory, and Miriam Brosseau was kind enough to insert dedication text and a picture of my mother and me at the end of the video.

I hope you find the talk meaningful.

Best wishes for a Gutten Shabbos,

Yakov

An Ounce of Prevention

Parshas Ki Sisa

Generally speaking, the Parshiyos of Terumah and Tetzaveh follow a sequential, logical pattern. Parshas Terumah introduces the various Keilim (utensils) of the Mishkan, along with their attributes and dimensions, while Tetzaveh lists the Bigdei Kodesh (priestly garments) of the Kohanim. This sequence would seem to be quite appropriate. The Mishkan was prepared to be the house of Hashem; the place where the Shechina (Divine Presence) rested. Therefore, first the Mishkan was mentioned, along with all its Keilim, followed by a description of the garments of the Kohanim who would frequent the 'house' of Hashem.

With that in mind, the placement of the Kiyor in Parshas Ki Sisa (Shemos 30:17-21) seems strikingly out of place. (The Kiyor is commonly translated as the basin or the laver. The Kohanim would wash their hands and feet using water from the Kiyor before they began their service in the Mishkan). Logic would seem to dictate that a discussion of the Kiyor would be far more appropriate in Parshas Terumah - along with the other Keilim of the Mishkan.

The Sforno points out this difficulty and suggests an explanation. He notes that the function of the Kiyor was quite different than those of the other Keilim in the Mishkan. The various Keilim were crafted with the intent of bringing Hashem's Shechinah to rest in the midst of Klal Yisroel, while the Kiyor served to purify the Kohanim for their daily service of the Mishkan.

Maintenance

Using a car, Lehavdil, as a (loose) analogy, we can perhaps gain insight into this line of reasoning. A comprehensive article about a new automobile would:

1) Describe details about the construction of the car,

2) List its features to the driver, and finally,

3) Provide instructions for its maintenance (such as changing the oil).

In a similar vein, the Torah discusses:

1) The building of the Mishkan (in Parshas Terumah)

2) The various garments of theKohanim who served there (in ParshasTetzaveh), and then,

3) Noted the importance of maintaining the Kedusha necessary for proper service of Hashem by describing the Kiyor and its purifying qualities. (in Parshas Ki Sisa)

An Ounce of Prevention

I would like to suggest an entirely different understanding of the reason for the placement of the Kiyor in Parshas Ki Sisa. Perhaps the Kiyor was discussed in this week's Parsha as a precursor and antidote to the sin of the Eigel (The Golden Calf).

An optimistic person living in the time of Moshe Rabbeinu would not be faulted for making a confident prediction that once the Mshkan would be built and Hashem's presence would rest among the Jews, there would be no more sinning and the B'nei Yisroel would forever live in spiritual sync with the Shechinah.

Sadly, this was not to be. The people of that generation, who had the fortune to witness stunning miracles, were unable to maintain their spiritual plateau for very long. In fact, the Jews in the desert sinned by serving the golden calf right after receiving the Torah and EVEN BEFORE the commandment to build the Mishkan was given to them!!

In fact, as we see so many times in the Torah, the cycle of sinning and repenting seems to repeat itself time and again.

Hashem is perfect. We, mortal beings, since the beginning of time, perpetually succumb to temptation and sin - seemingly at the most inopportune times. Adam and Chava sinned almost immediately after they were created. Their son Kayin similarly erred in his interaction with his brother Hevel. It is this struggle of an imperfect human being doing battle with his or her Yeitzer Horah (evil inclination) that is depicted by the epic battle between Yaakov Avinu and the angel of Eisav (Bereshis 32 25-33).

Refuah Before the Makkah

Hashem often prepares the Refuah before the Makkah (the remedy before the illness). In the case of the Jews in Persia, Esther was placed in a position of power before the evil decree of Haman was initiated and Mordechai saved the life of Achashveirosh before the evil decree of Haman was introduced.

Perhaps a similar message is being transmitted to us with the placement of the Kiyor in its location in this week's Parsha - after the completion of the Mishkan and before the sin of the Eigel.

The Torah informs us that maintaining our level of Kedusha is a cyclical -and never ending - mission. Even after the Mishkan was completed, we are reminded of the ongoing need for spiritual vigilance and the renewal of our efforts to maintain our Kedushah.

Rashi, quoting the Gemara, (Zevachim 19b), notes that the Kohein would simultaneously wash the right hand and right foot, and then repeat this procedure for his left hand and foot. The Ramban explains that this symbolized that the highest point of a person's body (the hand which can be raised above the head) and the lowest point, the foot, needed to be purified together - to join in serving Hashem.

Highs and Lows

This insight of the Ramban would seem to be congruent with the theme of the Kiyor's placement in Parshas Ki Sisa serving as a preparatory antidote to the sin of the Eigel.

We certainly hope that our spiritual gains in life (our high moments, represented by the hands) will be long lasting and perhaps even permanent. However, the Torah reminds us that even after sinning (our lows, represented by our feet), the soothing, refreshing waters of purification and repentance remain within our reach.

Best wishes for a Gutten Shabbos,
Yakov Horowitz

© 2016 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved



Link to <3 minute video Ki Sisa



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