Ki Thisa: by Shema`ryahu Yisrael bar Abraham
And Aharon said to them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, and bring them to me. And all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aharon. And he received the gold at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it a molten calf: and they said, These are thy gods, O Yisrael, which brought thee up out of the land of Mizrayim. And when Aharon saw it, he built and alter before it; and Aharon made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.
This pasuq is perhaps one of the most interesting in the Torah. How was it possible, many ask, for bene Yisrael to create and worship an idol so quickly after God freed them from the land of Mizrayim with such signs and wonders as the Ten Plagues and the splitting of the Sea of Reeds? This perplexity is solved with one simple realization: bene Yisrael were not worshipping a false God.
The pasuq is shows us that what bene Yisrael did was to erect a construct of God that was inaccurate. How do we know this? It is inferred from the statement, these are thy gods, O Yisrael, which brought thee up out of the land of Mizrayim and Aharon made proclomation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD. We see a juxtaposition of thy gods and the LORD twice. First is when it is said of the idol that they (as the idol is referred to as thy gods) brought bene Yisrael from the land of Mizrayim. The second instance is when Aharon proclaims, tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.
What can we learn from this parashah? Perhaps one of the most important issues in our faith: the proper conception of God. As we learned in parashath Yithro, we must know, through philosophical enquery , that God exists and he is Absolutely and Uniquely One.
In the Enumeration of the Mizwoth found in the introduction
to RMb"M’s Yad Hahazaqah, the first mizwah is listed as to know that
there is a God, as [Shemoth 20:2] states: I am the LORD your God.
Similarly, in Hilchoth Yesode Hatorah, we read the following: The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence. All the beings of the heavens, the earth, and what is between them came into existence only form the truth of His being [Yad Hahazaqah, Hilchoth Yesode Hatorah 1:1].
Furthermore, it reads, This entity is the God of the world and the Lord of the entire earth. He controls the sphere with infinite and unbounded power. This power [continues] without interruption, because the sphere is constantly revolving, and it is impossible for it to revolve. [That one is] He, blessed be He, who causes it to revolve without a hand or any [other] corporeal dimension [ibid 1:5].
The most profound statement regarding the unity of God, also found in the Yad, is as follows: This God is one. He is not two or more, but one, unified in a manner which [surpasses] any unity found in the world, ie, He is not one in the manner of a general category which includes many individual entities, nor one in the way that the body is divided into different portions and dimensions. Rather, He is unified, and there exists no unity similar to His in this world. If there were many gods, they would have body and form, because like entities are separated from each other only through the circumstances associated with body and form. Were the Creator to have body and form, He would have limitation and definition, because it is impossible for a body not to be limited. Any entity which itself is limited and defined [posesses] only limited and defined power. Since our God, blessed be His name, possesses unlimited power as evidenced by the continuous revolution of the sphere, we see that His power is not the power of a body. Since He is not a body, the circumstances associated with bodies are not relevant to Him. Therefore, it is impossible for Him to be anything other than one.
Thus, we are enabled to understand that the sin of bene Yisrael was not the construction and worship of a false god, but of the erection of an image of God - an image that is forbidden as God is without form and may not be represented in any manner. This sin is more than a physical one, however. It also involved creating a mental construct within which to define and confine God. The extent to which such a transgression of Divine Law can be damaging will be illustrated below.
In the Moreh Nabuchim [2:32], we read the following regarding the Sabbath: Therefore we are told in the Law to honor this day; in order to confirm thereby the principle of Creation which will spread in the world, when all peoples keep the Sabbath on the same day. For when the question is asked, why is this done, the answer is given [Shemoth 20:11] : For in six days, the LORD had made, etc…Thus God commanded us to abstain from work on the Sabbath, and to rest for…purposes; namely…That we might confirm the true theory, that of Creation, which at once and clearly leads to the theory of the existence of God. For the laws governing the Sabbath to be predicated on reflecting the true origins of the world, a clear grasp of God is necessary, for if God may be portrayed in a physical likeness, He would be limited, and thus the Sabbath, which has served as the guardian of the Jewish people, would be moot.
Given as the foundational knowledge of our faith is the existence of God as Absolute and Unique Uinity, the above scenario may be applied to any of the mizwoth found in the Torah. The Torah itself, and thus our identity rests upon this pillar of belief. Without a proper understanding of this, not only is our holy Torah mute, but we ourselves and our posterity exist in vain.
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